Pakistanis celebrate Valentine despite ban


LAHORE: Usman Shahid didn’t want to break his wife’s heart by not celebrating Valentine’s Day with her, so he decided to break the law instead.

Shahid and many other Pakistanis are outraged over a court’s ban on celebrating Valentine’s Day because it is considered ‘unIslamic.’ They vowed to press forward with hearts, flowers and love.

“I am still going ahead with my Valentine’s Day plans in defiance of this unrealistic ban despite the consequences,” said Shahid, 30, a university lecturer in Lahore.

The Islamabad High Court in Pakistan’s capital issued the order Monday after a citizen, Abdul Waheed, petitioned the court to ban celebrations in public places to stop the “spread of love … immorality, nudity and indecency (from) being promoted which is against our rich culture.”  The court order does not mention a fine or punishment. Police here on Tuesday have been issuing warnings to people.

The ruling was a victory for a conservative group that had long tried to forbid the celebrations in the majority-Muslim country. In a society where adultery is punishable by death and public displays of love are forbidden, the young had increasingly used Valentine’s Day as a form of rebellion.

“Every year that Feb. 14 is celebrated, it is done so as the Day of Shame,” Abdul Muqeet, president of Punjab University’s Jamiat-e-Talaba, the student-wing of conservative Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami party. All over Pakistan, our organization holds protests, marches and distributes literature telling our youth how they are being manipulated toward this un-Islamic and immoral tradition.”

“We cannot allow such acts as they will spoil the present and future generations,” he added.

As a result of the ban, the government ordered the media and retailers to refrain from promoting or mentioning the holiday.

Some in the country bemoaned the order, noting the absence of flowers being sold by the side of the road and heart-shaped balloons.

“I was looking forward to celebrating Valentine’s Day with my friends, but this ban from the government has ruined everything for us,” said Azhar Kalam, 27, an engineering student in Lahore. “It is laughable that the state makes issues out of non-issues like Valentine’s by calling it a Western trend. Isn’t heating food in a microwave Western? Why do we copy that then?”

Some Pakistanis said festivities were likely to be muted anyway because of Monday’s terror attack claimed by the Taliban that killed at least 13 on Lahore’s busy Mall Road.

“The blast light night in Lahore has also scared off the people,” Kalam added, echoing others that said public celebrations in the country are always risky in light of the security risks.

“Since public festivities are banned, I am throwing a private party at my place and inviting a few friends over,” he said. “We had earlier made reservation at a restaurant. It is the only non-religious festival we enjoy celebrating, and we look forward to it each year.”

Mehak Haque said the ban was a relief for singles.

“Valentine’s Day is a dreadful day for all the single people out there,” said Haque, 23, a communications student in Lahore. “There is unwarranted pressure on those who don’t have a Valentine date or aren’t seeing anyone.”