Pakistan’s president, Mamnoon Hussain, has urged the nation not to celebrate Valentine's Day, the romantic holiday that hardline Muslim clerics want banned but officials in the capital say they cannot suppress.
The president criticized Valentine's Day, which falls on Sunday this year, as a Western import that threatens to undermine the Islamic values of Pakistan.
Despite its roots as a Christian holiday, Valentine's Day has gained popularity among Pakistanis, with flower vendors reporting booming sales this year, as in recent years.
"Valentine's Day has no connection with our culture and it should be avoided," Hussain said at a ceremony celebrating a nationalist leader.
A vendor arranges heart-shaped balloons along the roadside to attract customers ahead of Valentine's Day, in Lahore, Pakistan, Feb. 13, 2016.
Local media reported earlier in the week that Islamabad would ban celebrations on Valentine's as an "insult to Islam", but city officials later said such a rule would be unenforceable.
Local ban also
In Peshawar, the capital of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, members of the district assembly on Friday unanimously passed a resolution to ban Valentine's Day celebrations.
"A particular segment of our society wants to impose Western values and culture on our youth by celebrating Valentine's Day," said the resolution, which was presented by a member of Jamaat-e-Islami, one of the largest Islamist parties in Pakistan.
Several members of the civil society criticized what they called government’s “interference” in people’s lives and supported Pakistanis’ right to choose whether or not they want to celebrate Valentine’s Day.
The ban and opposition by some sections of the society have not deterred people in many cities as they buy flowers, chocolates and red balloons, a leading Pakistani news channel, Geo News, reported.