Pakistan’s Higher Education Commission announced a ban on Holi celebrations across educational institutions across the country after a video of students celebrating the festival at a university in Islamabad went viral.
A notice issued by the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan said that students are forbidden to follow this festival in order to adhere to “sociocultural values.”
“While there is no denying the fact that cultural, ethnic, and religious diversity leads towards an inclusive and tolerant society, that profoundly respects all faiths and creeds; albeit it needs to be done so in a measured manner without going overboard. The students need to be apprised to be aware of the self-serving vested interests who use them for their own ends far from the altruistic critical thinking paradigm,” the notice read.
“It is sad to witness activities that portray a complete disconnect from our social values and an erosion of the country’s Islamic identity,” it said
“Foregoing in view, it is advised that the HEls may prudently distance themselves from all such activities obviously incompatible with the country’s identity and societal values, while ensuring that they rigorously engage their students and faculty in academic pursuits, intellectual debates, and cognitive learning besides identifying, creating, and fostering avenues for extra-curricular activities and rational discourse,” the statement added.
The viral video showed students of Quaid-i-Azam University, a public university in Islamabad, celebrating Holi on the campus on June 12. The event was reportedly held by the Mehran Students’ Council, a non-political cultural organisation of the university.
A page named QAU News posted a video of the students dancing while playing Holi on June 12. “Holi celebrations in Quaid-I-Azam University Islamabad, Pakistan. Biggest Holi celebration in Pakistan,” the video was captioned.
The viral pictures and videos from the Holi celebration had sparked controversy and also received diverse viewpoints on social media. While some saw it as a means to foster tolerance and acceptance, others raised concerns about the QAU administration and the Vice-Chancellor allowing such an event.
The statement said that the celebrations “from the platform of a university has caused concern and has disadvantageously affected the country’s image”.
Festivals including Holi and Diwali are an integral part of the Sindh culture, which is the second-largest populated province after Punjab.