A new directive to television broadcasters and distributors has advised against the promotion of Valentine’s Day and any events linked to it. The directive derives from a ruling last year by the Islamabad High Court which had banned the celebration of Valentine’s Day in public places, leading to police arresting vendors selling heart-shaped balloons or red roses. The focus on one of the many occasions marked around the world, and turned increasingly into a commercial event, is rather strange. In our country, we could certainly do with a little more love and a little less hate. Rather than outlawing the celebration of any event which can draw people closer, Pemra and other authorities need to look at how hate is spread through the media, and find ways to challenge this dangerous trend. The footage aired on Thursday of the acquitted killers of Mashal Khan being given heroes’ welcome as martyrs who had killed a ‘blasphemer’ is the kind of news coverage that needs to be regulated so that mindsets can be changed within a country that has already suffered a severe distortion in its ability to think rationally.
It is also curious that when we are in need of so much else, from development to economic uplift to actions which can promote literacy and health, attention is directed towards essentially frivolous issues. Whether or not Valentine’s Day is celebrated will in no way make any difference to our nation. Nor will the selling of balloons or the exchange of gifts hurt any individual or group. There are many other events which cause immense damage. The airing of hate speeches over the media and the vitriolic attacks made on individuals by guests on television shows are among these. Surely we need to look at the world through different lenses. As one eminent educationalist has already pointed out, while others send rockets and satellites into space, Pakistan worries itself over Valentine’s Day. We need instead to look higher, to aim higher, and to take a bird’s eye view of our country. There is much that is wrong with it. Marking occasions that leaders term as ‘Western’ is not really among these. In order to reform our nation, we need to challenge extremism, hatred, and intolerance. Barring Valentine’s Day from our screens will in no way take forward this cause.