Moral police go on billboard ‘blackening’ spree

Updated May 03, 2014


Faces of women models on advertisement billboards have been defaced. — Photo by Ishaque Chaudhry
Faces of women models on advertisement billboards have been defaced. — Photo by Ishaque Chaudhry

ISLAMABAD: Upscale Jinnah Super Market is abuzz with suspicion that a moral brigade is out after discovering that someone had disfigured faces of women on a few advertisement billboards on the College Road.

Women advertising a beauty care salon and summer fabrics offended the unknown vigilantes who either scratched or blackened their faces.

Neither the advertising agencies nor their clients reported the acts of vandalism to the police or the Capital Development Authority (CDA).

“There is no use involving the police or anybody else,” said advertiser Sohail Shah, adding that “the best thing is to replace the ad before the client complaints”.

However, religious elements are suspected to be behind the defacing of ads.

Sobia Amir, owner of the salon, said her “well-wishers” thought it was the act of “right wing students”.

“Madressah students usually do such things. But Islamabad has seen very few such incidents,” said Iskander Khan, who owns a shopping plaza overlooking College Road, which leads to a girls college.

There are two madressahs in the vicinity and seminary students are often seen strolling on College Road.

While the management of Jamia Fareedia, located at some distance in sector E-7, refused to comment on the defacing incident, a religious student on a stroll said there should be a complete ban on the display of “bare faces” in Islamabad, which many classify as “a liberal city”.

“I do not know who defaced the advertisements but they should not be there in the first place,” he said pointing to the billboards hanging from the electricity poles.

“These pictures are immoral and give rise to many ills in the society.”

Hafiz Mohammad Fahim, a cleric of the Madressah Taleemul Quran situated in Jinnah Super grounds, denied that his students were behind the act of vandalism but praised it at the same time.

“We are against displaying women like this – and feel worst for the women who pose for them willingly,” he told Dawn.

“Though the defacing would have been done by some pious person, we are against using illegal methods to convey the right message.”

His words echoed the speeches made at a recent meeting of the Milli Yekjehti Council (National Solidarity Council). There religious leaders of all sects expressed concern over “vulgarity and obscenity spilling over from the media onto the streets, and spreading”.

They traced the unhealthy trend to “a conspiracy by the West to weaken Pakistan by promoting a liberal lifestyle”.

The telltale vandalism in Islamabad was reminiscent of such acts witnessed in the northwest Pakistan and in Karachi years ago.In 2006, religious activists had pulled down billboards in the then Northwest Frontier Province after the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal-led provincial government warned of action against advertisements featuring women.

And around the same time, the nazim (mayor) of Karachi Naimatullah Khan, who belonged to Jamaat-i-Islami, had ordered that all advertisements featuring women needed a certificate of decency from his office.