President Mamnoon Hussain has urged Pakistanis not to observe Valentine’s Day, the romantic holiday that hardline Muslim clerics want banned but officials in the capital say they cannot suppress.
The president criticised Valentine’s Day, which falls today, 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.
Local media reported earlier in the week that Islamabad would ban celebrations on Valentine’s celebrations as an “insult to Islam”, but city officials later said such a rule would be unenforceable.
The northwestern city of Peshawar, near the Afghan border, has banned Valentine’s Day celebrations, local media said.
The president’s comments came amid reports of bans on the sale of items marking the occasion this weekend.
The Interior Ministry denied that the restriction was imposed in Islamabad. “There is no truth in these reports. We cannot even think of such a ban in the capital,” spokesman Sarfaraz Hussain said.
A local authority did prohibit the sale of cards, flowers and other paraphernalia marking the day of love in Kohat district, around 200km west of Islamabad, Dawn Newspaper reported on Friday.
“Valentine’s Day has become a common and unnecessary part of our culture,” said the nazim, or local council chairman, who issued the notification.
“There is no need to designate a special day where people give cards, chocolates and gifts to each other,” nazim Maulana Niaz Mohamed was quoted as saying by the Express Tribune.
Local police were to inspect markets and make sure retailers were not selling such items, which were in breach of Shariah law, the Dawn report cited the nazim as saying.
But another report said the district’s police were not intending to enforce the ban.
“The order has been discarded as it is illegal and violates basic human rights,” the Express Tribune quoted a high-ranking police official as saying on condition of anonymity.
The Constitution does not prohibit citizens from celebrating Valentine’s Day, he was quoted as saying.
Around 40km further north in Peshawar, local authorities also passed a resolution against Valentine’s day, but a police spokesman said no instructions had been given to enforce a ban on celebrations, Dawn reported.
In past years, religious hardliners have disrupted gatherings of youth celebrating Valentine’s Day in the country.
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