Holy bans only

Published January 27, 2012

While in a Karachi park a frenzied, self-righteous TV show host chased couples out on a date filming them without their consent last week, in Lahore the Punjab assembly passed a resolution seeking a blanket ban on music concerts in educational institutions. Both are despicable acts of moral policing in a country which offers youngsters very few opportunities to mingle. What’s next, you may well ask.

This ban thing is a nasty, rather selective business. Banning music concerts comes in the wake of a terrible accident, in which three college girls were crushed to death after a stampede ensued at a concert held recently at Lahore’s Al Hamra complex. The failure to curb rowdiness now brings on this preposterous suggestion to ban all concerts by educational institutions, whilst the rest, with a similar young audience in attendance can still go on. Bizarre but true.

Then, look at Basant. The age-old spring kite-flying festival was banned in Punjab in 2008 under court orders after the authorities failed to curb the use of killer twine. For years on end the festival was termed as an aberration in this Islamic republic, having its roots in Hindu culture, as preached by the bearded brigade. So it had to go, and not just the stray killer twine that cut the bikers’ throats.

The authorities have also banned one-wheeling on motorbikes in Lahore, but it continues to claim lives, especially on Independence Day when bikers in huge numbers take to the streets, driving rashly after having removed their bikes’ silencers. Do we ban Independence Day celebrations because we cannot control the dangerous sport?

Then, there is this deafening firing on New Year’s Eve in Karachi, which also results in loss of life; the authorities have responded by banning the celebrations and by sealing off the beach front. But they have failed to curb aerial firing which continues with a vengeance. Weddings too continue with free aerial firing as part of the festivities; logic dictates that weddings should also be banned because the people will not mend their ways. Road accidents too claim the highest number of casualties in Pakistan than anywhere else in the region, and the police have failed to bring down the number of fatalities. What do we do? Ban driving as well?

How about the Muharram processions and other gatherings by religious outfits and madrassas? They too have been attacked by rival extremist groups, as have been Friday prayer congregations, and resulted in many fatalities. Do we ban all such gatherings? The Taliban have been blowing up girls’ schools in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa; should we put a ban on girls’ schooling, as the Taliban wish we do?

Why then single out New Year’s Eve celebrations, Basant and now music concerts by educational institutions?

A church in a Karachi suburb was attacked by Muslim extremists over Christmas and the celebrations were called off in the entire area by Christians under pressure; this too amounted to a ban being placed on their worship by sheer social pressure. No court, from the lowest to the highest in the land, took half as much interest in the incident as they did, say, in Basant.

The magistrate in Rabwah, Punjab, now rechristened as Chenab Nagar just to spite the majority Ahmadi community residents there, keeps renewing the ban on Ahmadis’ religious congregations month after month and year after year. There is legislation on the statute books that systematically discriminates against Ahmadis, and no one finds anything wrong with this witch hunt. No righteous judge finds this ungodly act a breach of the basic freedom of citizens to practise their faith as guaranteed by the Constitution of Pakistan.

Why must we be condemned to live in a land of selective bans? Bans that state institutions and pressure groups impose with complete impunity. Such questions need to be asked, and answers demanded.

 

The writer is a member of the staff at Dawn Newspaper.

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