Author: Olivia Branan
In 2017, Pakistan’s Islamabad High Court imposed a countrywide ban on public advertising and celebration of Valentine’s Day. However, the people of Pakistan received the prohibition with defiance; even with Islamabad police officers scouring the streets for Valentine’s contraband, couples, families and friends celebrated the day in secret.
In Pakistan, Valentine’s Day is seen as an amoral appropriation of Western culture, but the display of love stays strong. Ranked as the fourth best university in Pakistan, the University of Agriculture Faisalabad (UAF) announced that it will be publicly celebrating “Sisters’ Day” this Feb. 14. In an interview with Financial Express, UAF Vice-Chancellor Zafar Iqbar Randhawa stated that celebrating Sisters’ Day on the same day as Valentine’s Day is a way to empower the Muslim youth while upholding Islamic traditions.
Even before the ban on Valentine’s Day, officials took action to prevent celebration. The Islamic party, jamaat e Islami, held public protests and rallies against the holiday, calling it an amoral contradiction to the teachings of Islam. The country’s former president, Mamnoon Hussain, publicly denounced Valentine’s Day for the same reasons, and local officials in cities such as Peshawar imposed their own ban.
Now, in the capital of Islamabad, police officers search cars and vendors’ stands in order to bust Valentine’s Day criminals. Many people who choose to celebrate must do so discreetly. In an interview with The New York Times, Pakistani citizen Hussain Liaquat stated that instead of buying roses and chocolates, he buys his girlfriend more ordinary gifts such as books and movie posters.
The ban has done more than simply causing people to hide their shows of affection. Vendors in 2017 were devastated to hear of the Valentine’s ban, not for personal reasons but for business. Florists with newly purchased flowers, some small stands investing up to $2,000 for the day, were left with roses and daffodils with little to no sales.
In 2017, the ban on Valentine’s Day in Pakistan caused a mixed public reaction of joy and concern. Some Pakistanis believed that the ban upheld the beliefs of Islam, while others felt that it infringed upon their personal (or financial) needs. In 2019, however, the Feb. 14 rebranding in places such as UAF shows that there can be a middle ground between a day of love and Islamic traditions.