On February 7th, Pakistan’s conservative government instituted a ban on Valentine’s Day. This is the second year in a row that the notorious hallmark holiday has been banned from the nation.
Valentine’s Day was first introduced to Pakistan in the late 90’s as part of marketing via television and radio. However, the holiday experienced harsh opposition from socially conservative, Islamist groups like the Jamaat-e-Islami party, which held large, vocal rallies against Valentine’s.
In 2017, the Islamabad High Court ruled that Valentine’s Day represents the adopting of a Western cultural practice that is “against the teachings of Islam.” The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) announced the successive ban for 2018 on Wednesday.
After commanding Pakistan’s televisions and radio stations to strike any mention or reference to the holiday from their scripts and schedules, PEMRA also decreed that “No event shall be held at the official level or at any public place.”
Still, according to recent poll, a great deal of Pakistan’s young people enjoy observing Valentine’s Day.
While the original Saint Valentine’s Day is filled with Christian roots and imagery, today’s incarnation takes on much more of a commercial, consumerist tone. Over 60% of Pakistani citizens under 30 reportedly celebrate the day in some fashion.
The customary exchanging of gifts, especially flowers, chocolates, and plush toys remains a popular way for lovers to show their love, and merchants to make extra money.
Many florists and shopkeepers do not seem to be deterred by the government’s orders, quietly choosing to sell their wares as usual. It does not appear that the government will be harshly enforcing a commercial ban of any kind.
One defiant vendor declared “I don’t know what danger these Islamists would face if I earn a little more from selling flowers and someone can have a chance to celebrate something!”
A university student also did not seem too plussed, adding “I will celebrate. This is my choice.”