PESHAWAR: While a group of students associated with a religio-political party took out a short walk in the new block of the University of Peshawar as part of ‘Haya (modesty) Day’ opposing the Valentine’s Day by shouting slogans , majority of students stayed away and celebrated love quietly though.

“Some people call Valentine’s Day celebrations obscene. They think the day means vulgarity or dating but if someone likes another person and expresses it by giving away a gift, how can that act be called obscene? We should spread love by celebrating such days,” said student Rabia Shah.

Kamran Buneri, another student of the university, said love should be celebrated especially in a place like Peshawar, which had seen so much violence and extremism.

“We should celebrate life and celebrate such happy days. Those disrupting such celebrations are extremists, who don’t want anyone to be happy,” he said.

A group linked with religious party marks Haya Day rejecting Valentine’s Day

Some girl students, however, were bold enough to wear red shawls, clothes or matching red shoes to celebrate the day but majority observed it quietly so as not to create any unrest on campus.

That is pretty much how Valentine’s Day is celebrated in Peshawar – still trying hard to recover from symptoms of years of extremism and terrorism.

Economic woes have added to an environment of blandness in the city. A transport development project has already made this once city of flowers into a city of dust and concrete. Amid all this construction and traffic mayhem in Peshawar, there are very few shops that sold red roses, teddy bears and chocolates. The buyers were also not many.

“Even when incidents of terrorism were rampant, people stepped out to buy gifts on such a day. This year, the situation is really bad. We are unable to sell the stuff we have,” said Niamat while wrapping a Valentine’s Day gift at the Avon gift shop on the University Road.

“There is either some kind of fear or economical issues, which are stopping the people from coming to shop for their valentines,” he said.

Nasir, manager of the Akbar Gift Shop in main Saddar market, said the business might be low but the people did come out on such days to shop.

He said women shopped more than men and that some bearded men, even a cleric, showed up to buy a gift on Valentine’s Day.

“Love is a natural feeling and ban on observing such days or any other hurdle to it cannot stop people from expressing it,” he said with a smile on his face.

Younas Khan, who sold red roses and bouquets, said he did not even stop the business when militancy gripped Swat and he took care of his blooming flowers.

He said he sold roses everyday and if someone wanted to buy a rose on that particular day, how one could call that act obscene.

“We are doing business alright until on this day in particular when people are celebrating love. We hear from media or a passing by policeman that Valentine’s Day is banned. Our business is affected only then,” he said.

The florist said the people celebrated Valentine’s Day in Peshawar like all other cities of the country but since it was looked down upon as an obscene act and a western tradition in the provincial capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the residents tried not to mark it openly and bought gifts and flowers rather discreetly.

Published in Dawn, February 15th, 2019