Post-Valentine's day

Daily: Daily Times
Date: 17.02.16

President of Pakistan Mamnoon Hussain seemed to have some special intelligence reports
suggesting that the whole nation was about to rejoice by celebrating Valentine’s Day on
February 14. The figure head of Pakistan must have felt something sinister in the offing
leaving him with little chance to observe silence and not share his misgivings with the
public. Consequently, he acted in the best interest of the nation before the nation could fall
victim to another conspiracy of getting mesmerised by the west.

On February 12, while speaking at an event arranged to honour the services of late Sardar
Abdur Rab Nishtar in the Pakistan Movement, the president was so concerned about the
moral health of the nation that he did not wait for the question: “The nation is hell bent on
celebrating Valentine’s Day, what do you suggest to the nation?” Instead, the president
took upon himself the duty of educating and warning the nation before it got enthralled by
the west. Rather than popularising the life and work of Nishtar, the president bandied about
a new idea of command and control by articulating several ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts’ for the
nation. At least, the president believed that in his person he embodied both authority and
advisory. This was also a way to turn the state of oblivion into fame.

The president said, “Valentine’s Day has no connection with our culture and it should be
avoided”. The forces of globalisation are still unconscious of our president’s assertion.
They are otherwise on a ruthless quest to not let any country of the world unaffected by
them. Can the president stop them from transcending the boundaries of Pakistan? The
space that social media has gotten in recent years is unprecedented, and there is even
more to come. The world is hurtled to get interconnected and inter-influenced. Can the
president outsmart the changes brought about by today’s age, which speak through the
language of technology? He has played his innings of life and is on the way out of utility. A
departing generation should leave it to the progeny to think about the kind of Pakistan it
requires. There is no need of imposing one’s verdict on the others.

The president’s remarks stirred debate on the electronic media regarding celebrating the
day. Retired army generals and right-wing, medieval age publicists had a field day. History
of the day was traced and the discussion — mostly one-sided, with all its narrowed versions
— even touched the limits of character assassination of the originator of Valentine’s Day.
How to prove one’s patriotic and (religious) traditionalist credentials is a major challenge
Pakistanis are faced with. For many this is a way of survival. Feeding on patriotic avowals is
also a way to earn one’s living and be counted. On TV talk shows, guests were invited
keeping in view their predisposition. Like-mindedness was promoted and reinforced while
divergence was smothered. Islam was declared to be threatened in Pakistan by the
onslaught of the celebration. The ideological basis of Pakistan was also felt to be collapsing
under the weight of the celebration. Indeed, February 14 was termed as a very dangerous
day for Pakistan.

The president said: “Students should go abroad to attain higher education, but should not
be influenced by the west and must maintain their religious and national identity”. Has the
president himself studied in the west? Does the president know how the west influences a
student? In this age, if someone wants to get influenced by the west, is it important to go to
the west? Here, the predicament is that the speaker does not realise the oddity embedded
in his words. The country is under a heavy debt obtained from the west and its financial
institutions, can the president stop that? The cavalcade of the president with all its bullet
proof cars and fool-proof security systems are not invented in Pakistan. These are
imported from the west. No one should live in a paradox of relying on western aid and
products for survival, and reviling the west in the same breadth.

The west does not survive in just pants and shirts. The west survives in all things of utility
Pakistanis are fond of using. Mobile phones and laptops are also made by those who
celebrate Valentine’s Day. Stop buying them. Invent your own products and then voice all
kinds of “shoulds” and “must”. F-16 airplanes, which Pakistan yearns to get at any cost,
have been constructed by the same people celebrating Valentine’s Day. Why just condemn
celebrating the day? Pass a presidential order stating that nothing can be imported from
the (western) people who celebrate Valentine’s Day because along with their western
products their traditions and values also penetrate Pakistan and threaten the religion
Pakistanis profess and undermine Pakistan’s ideological foundations.

The president said: “We need to emulate the principles and self-belief of our founding
fathers to make Pakistan a strong and prosperous country”. The question is this: who are
the founding fathers of Pakistan, and how many? The president must be interested in
initiating a new debate on the number and criterion to consider one a founding father while
excluding the others.

What was the need to mention Valentine’s Day and to distract people from the services
Nishtar rendered for the country? Certainly, Pakistani politicians face a big problem of
relevance. They try to cash in on opportunities to meet their objectives even if these were
incongruent with the occasion they are invited to. Nevertheless, if late General Hameed Gul
were alive today, the nation would have been further educated on the ills of February 14,
whether it visited in the company of Valentine’s Day or not.

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