“We’re going to ban everything related to Valentine’s Day because Pakistan’s got no problems to deal with. Too funny for words!”
As the world rejoices in Valentine’s Day celebrations, Pakistan is one of few countries banning the public holiday, deeming it “immoral” and “indecent.”
The state has also barred media outlets from promoting the global celebration, arguing it is a contravention of religious principles.
The prohibition began in early 2017, following a petition filed by an ordinary Pakistani citizen, Abdul Wahed, claiming that Valentine’s Day promotes “immorality, nudity and indecency in Pakistan.”
The declaration on the ban has caused great uproar across Pakistan. Some support the ban, whilst others are vehemently against it.
Netizens are torn on their views on the ban, either tweeting messages of pleasure or profanity.
“We’re going to ban everything related to Valentine’s Day because Pakistan’s got no problems to deal with. Too funny for words!” says Mariyam Nafees, a Twitter user.
Another internet user, Anas Tipu also mocks the decision, exposing its hypocrisy: “According to Google, Pakistan is one of the top most countries searching porn, and still have the audacity to ban Valentine’s day…”
Others approved of the controversial stance: “This is the duty of the government of Pakistan to ban the special programs on TV channels related to Valentine’s day,” says Hira Chaudhury.
Zahra Saifullah offers a more cynical opinion. She tweets: “There should be a ban on Valentine’s Day in Pakistan, a country where population is out of control with no expression of love.”
Backing for the prohibition has also come from an unlikely source. Aaron Flint, a Western user expresses his indifference to the ban:
“I wish our country would do the same. It’s a stupid marketing day, nothing more. If you need a day to remind you to show love and affection; something’s wrong with you.”
Some Pakistani citizens have decided to overlook the ban, still publicising and celebrating openly.
One Twitter user records her local shopping mall, clearly participating in Valentine’s Day festivities, captioning the video: “Valentine’s day in Pakistan. You can’t ban love.”
Valentine’s Day in Pakistan. You can’t ban love ?? pic.twitter.com/oohy38S0ek
— Sehr Pirzada (@SehrPirzada) February 13, 2018
Citizens are not the only ones to criticise the ban. The ordeal has garnered significant media attention.
Editorial cartoonist for Pakistani news outlets ‘Express Tribune,’ ‘The Friday Times,’ ‘Newsweek Pakistan’ and ‘Samaatv’ Sabir Nazar tweeted a cartoon expressing the absurdity of the newfound rule.
My cartoon on Valentine day pic.twitter.com/KWMJwqM4XR
— sabirnazar (@sabirnazar1) February 14, 2018
In spite of the restrictions on promoting the ‘immoral’ holiday, the renowned food product of Pakistan ‘National Foods’ tweeted a more light-hearted and amusing post in support of Valentine’s Day.
— National Recipe Mixes (@NationalRecipes) February 14, 2018
A nationally recognised taxi company, Careem Pakistan, humorously detects a loophole in the promotion of the banned celebration.
The Uber inspired company initially expresses its support for the ban, tweeting:
“In accordance with strict government policies, Careem will not be celebrating Valentine’s day. We sincerely hope you understand.”
They then proceed to facetiously poke fun at the judgement, tweeting a “not Valentine’s Day” promotion code for all Careem users.
No no. We do not wish you a Happy Valentine's Day. We hope you are not using the promo today to win a gift basket for you and your captain. pic.twitter.com/ql937IbEBC
— Careem Pakistan (@CareemPAK) February 14, 2018
Many of Pakistan’s stars have also chosen to disregard the ban, stating their plans for the love-laden day. Actor and former model Imran Abbas tells Pakistani newspaper Daily Times:
“This year, my sister and my niece are visiting me from the US and I absolutely love my niece. My whole family is my Valentine this year. I plan on celebrating with my extremely loved ones and I am so grateful to have a full house and spend this precious time with them.”
Considering Pakistan’s conservative outlook on social matters, it may be no surprise that the public holiday was banned as traditionally, free mixing between men and women prior to marriage is strongly discouraged.
However, despite the outcry regarding the ever-increasing concern of ‘immorality’ and ‘indecency,’ many young couples are still finding ways to engage in relationships away from the public gaze.
Ironically, Pakistan was listed as the top porn searching country by Google in early 2015.
Perhaps more than a ban on Valentine’s Day would be required to address the issue of this supposed ‘immoral’ behaviour among Pakistan’s youth?
Following the intense reaction of individuals worldwide, a lifting of the ban may be an option. However, with fervent defenders of the boycott claiming Valentine’s Day clashes with core Pakistani values, this seems unlikely.