While the law against lavish weddings has existed in Punjab for long, but now it is being implemented by authorities with new vigour. Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif issued orders that rules regarding one-dish wedding meals and marriage halls being closed by the decreed time be implemented strictly.
A directive from him warned the district administrators and police officers that they would be held responsible for any violations of the restrictions in their area. They were asked to report compliance with the rules on a daily basis.
Soon afterwards, a stricture was sent to the officers from the Punjab Home Department stating that violations were continuing and some district administrations failed to report them.
Take a look: Police may get ‘punctuality task’ at weddings
The problem appears to be that the authorities have not laid down any principles for monitoring violations at weddings, furthermore the one-dish rule has not be adequately explained and other electricity -consuming activities are not subject to similar restrictions. According to people managing wedding services businesses the police is being used to intimidate people.
Mubarik Ali says his catering business has experienced a slump since the government banned serving of more than one dish at wedding parties.
“People are cheating the government by arranging marriage functions in their houses or farm houses and serving several dishes there,” he told Dawn.
However, the restrictions on lavish weddings are appreciated by the society at large and overwhelmingly by the underprivileged classes. A poll conducted by the Gallup Pakistan in 2009 found that 67 percent of the respondents welcomed the decision of the Punjab government to restrict wedding dinners to one-dish. At that time, the motive was to bring some semblance of egalitarianism in society.
But critics argue that the government’s recourse to using the police force to implement such a policy leads to its failure rather than changing societal trends.
“Instead, it would be more productive if an awareness campaign is carried out, with proper homework, before the announcement of such a government policy,” said a retired police officer.
It is common perception that law abiding citizens feel humiliated at the sight of policemen at their doors. The police mostly earn hatred in implementing government-mandated punitive actions, he added.
City Police Officer Israr Ahmed Abbasi, however, believes the use of police force is “the only way to implement government policies” – from curbing the use of more than one loud-speakers at worship places to serving more than one dish at weddings.
Those hit by the one-dish and early closure of marriage functions rules feel the Punjab government should have at least consulted the people’s representatives before handing over the enforcement part to the police.
Published in Dawn, April 28th, 2015