Pakistani court issues nationwide ban on Valentine’s Day

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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — The Islamabad High Court in Pakistan’s capital issued an order Monday that banned the celebration of Valentine’s Day across the country “with immediate effect.”

The order prohibits the display of adverts on electronic and print media that reference Valentine’s Day, bans the sale of associated merchandise and said the day cannot be celebrated in “any public space or government building.”

The court has requested Pakistan’s Electronic Media Regulatory Authority to monitor these platforms and share any information that shows that the ban has been compromised.

The court’s order came after a petition was submitted by Abdul Waheed, who claimed that ongoing promotions of Valentine’s Day were “against the teachings of Islam and should be banned immediately.”

Valentine’s Day backlash

In Pakistan, Valentine’s Day is seen by some as amoral and an appropriation of Western culture.

Resistance against it is not completely unusual. Religious groups such as the Islamic political party jamat e Islami have often protested against marking Valentine’s Day in the country and hold rallies annually against the celebration on Feb. 14.

In 2016, the local government in Peshawar in the country’s northern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhua also banned celebrations.

The country’s president Mamnoon Hussain made a statement in February 2016 asking Pakistanis not to celebrate the day since it was “not a part of Muslim tradition, but of the West.”

The Islamabad High Court’s decision has also divided social media users, with some tweeting for the ban and others vehemently against it.

A chance to promote business

Though Valentine’s Day tends not to be celebrated widely across the country, in recent years, various companies have used the event to promote their products.

In the first week of February, vendors start selling heart-shaped balloons and the price of red roses increases.

In Islamabad’s markets Monday, florists standing amid large heart-shaped garlands of roses and bouquets of daffodils and jasmine were worried by the effects of the ban.

“We spend four to five days making these, I’ve got 40 of them ready to be sold for tomorrow,” Sultan Zaib said.

Mohammad Naveed, who runs a roadside flower shop, said he had invested close to the equivalent of $2,000 on buying blooms for Valentine’s Day.

Florists source flowers from abroad and from the nearby fields of Punjab. Usually they earn about $80 for a day’s sales, but the amount increases tenfold on Valentine’s Day.

“If they ban us from selling these tomorrow then it will be a disaster, we simply cannot afford this,” Naveed said.