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Pakistan’s Court Summons TV Team for ‘Disrespecting’ Valentine’s Day Ban


People buy flowers to celebrate Valentine's Day in Islamabad, Pakistan, Feb. 14, 2018. Pakistan's media regulatory authority, acting on a court order, has instructed all news channels, radio stations and print media to refrain from promoting Valentine's Day.

A Pakistani court has summoned several TV reporters from the country’s largest private TV station over accusations of “ridiculing” last year’s ruling that barred Valentine’s Day celebrations and its media coverage across the country.

On February 14, Geo TV’s popular Report Card show dedicated a 15-minute segment to discussing the justification of the court’s ban on Valentine’s Day coverage and celebrations.

Two of the panelists in the show questioned the rationale of the ban.

Hasan Nisar, a prominent Lahore-based political analyst, declared the restrictions “illogical” and “ridiculous” for society.

“I do not even have anything to say on it, it’s funny,” Nisar said.

Echoing Nisar, Imtiaz Alam, a leading reporter and panelist of the show, said the restrictions were “useless.”

“How can the court interfere as it is against the fundamental rights of the people? Do we have Taliban regime in Pakistan?” Alam asked.

“This is a cultural martial law and curfew to enforce the extreme ideologies. This is a sick mindset, and the moral policing through PEMRA [Pakistan Electronic Media Authority] is shameless,” Alam said.

Students of Punjab University rally to condemn the Valentine celebration, in Lahore, Pakistan, Feb. 14, 2018. Pakistan's media regulatory authority, acting on a court order, instructed Feb. 8, 2018, that all news channels, radio stations and print media to refrain from promoting Valentine's Day.
Students of Punjab University rally to condemn the Valentine celebration, in Lahore, Pakistan, Feb. 14, 2018. Pakistan's media regulatory authority, acting on a court order, instructed Feb. 8, 2018, that all news channels, radio stations and print media to refrain from promoting Valentine's Day.

Court order

Last year, on February 13, Islamabad’s High Court declared Valentine’s Day celebration un-Islamic and imposed a ban on any public or official celebrations.

The government reinstated the ban for a second consecutive year earlier this month to comply with the court’s ruling.

PEMRA also issued a fresh directive to remind its TV and radio licensees to refrain from promoting the day on their stations.

“Respondents are directed to ensure that nothing about the celebrations of Valentine’s Day and its promotion is spread on the electronic and print media,” PEMRA’s notification reads.

On charges of failing to adhere to the court’s order and PEMRA’s instruction, Islamabad court summoned the Geo TV host, two guests and the chief executive officer of the station to appear before the court next week and defend themselves in a contempt-of-court case.

“This act of the host and the participants apparently is tainted with malafide, ulterior motives, aims to undermine the authority of the court and to disrespect the order passed by the court, which clearly comes within the definition of the contempt of court,” the court said, according to local media.

The ban on Valentine’s Day celebrations and sensitivity toward it are not new in Pakistan. Some political and religious groups, such as Jamaat-i-Islami, have carried out rallies and protests against the celebration of the day, declaring it “unethical and un-Islamic.”

There have been instances in the past where local authorities prohibited the February 14 festivities in different cities across the nation.

In 2016, President Mamnoon Hussain also warned Pakistanis to stay away from celebrating Valentine’s Day, declaring it was “not a part of Muslim tradition, but of the West.”

A couple buys flowers to celebrate Valentine's Day, in Islamabad, Pakistan, Feb. 13, 2017. A Pakistani judge has banned Valentine's Day celebrations in the country's capital, saying they are against Islamic teachings.
A couple buys flowers to celebrate Valentine's Day, in Islamabad, Pakistan, Feb. 13, 2017. A Pakistani judge has banned Valentine's Day celebrations in the country's capital, saying they are against Islamic teachings.

General debate

Valentine’s celebrations have increased in Pakistan over the last decade, particularly among the country’s youth.

The enforcement of the ban on its celebration and media coverage for a second consecutive year has sparked a larger debate among some of the country’s liberal and conservative circles.

A section of the society defends the celebrations and considers them harmless, though for others the day does not have any place in their religious practices or their traditions.

Pakistan, for the most part, is a conservative Muslim society. Public displays of affection are not the norm and often are viewed as unacceptable.

But some Pakistanis, like Saleema Hashmi, a Lahore-based artist and renowned educator, believe the system is focusing on “irrelevant issues” at the expense of more important and pressing issues the country faces.

“Don’t our courts have better things to do instead of passing rulings on celebrating a mere romantic day?” she asked. “I do not understand how celebrating or denouncing Valentine’s Day can impact our religion, traditions, social or cultural norms.”

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    Madeeha Anwar

    Madeeha Anwar is a multimedia journalist with Voice of America's Extremism Watch Desk in Washington where she primarily focuses on extremism in the South Asia region.

    Follow Madeeha on Twitter at @MadeehaAnwar

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