President of Pakistan condemns Valentine's Day

Pakistan’s president has condemned St Valentine’s Day, saying the tradition has no link with Pakistani philosophy and should be avoided.

President Mamnoon Hussain expressed before the students that it was a Western custom and conflicted with Muslim philosophy.

His comments came after a region in north-western Pakistan stopped Valentine’s Day celebrations. Earlier this week, the local government in Kohat, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, told police officers to stop shops from selling Valentine’s Day cards and items.

Kohat district is run by a religious political party and borders Pakistan’s conservative tribal areas.

Meanwhile, the Peshawar local council also passed a resolution to ban celebrations of what it called a “useless” day.

Kohat district administrator Maulana Niaz Muhammad told the BBC Urdu: “Valentine’s Day has no legal grounds, and secondly it is against our religion, therefore it was banned.”

Valentine’s Day is common in many modern cities in Pakistan, but sacred groups have condemned it as decadent. While giving cards and flowers was not in itself a bad thing, linking this to a specific day was not appropriate, Mr Muhammad said. He added that he felt such practices could encourage obscene behavior.

However, officials in both places later said the bans had been discarded or ignored for being unpopular.

Earlier this week, there were unverified media reports that Valentine’s Day gifts had been banned in the capital Islamabad – although this was subsequently denied by the government. In the run-up to this year’s festival, one conservative newspaper described it as a “festival of obscenity”, asking if Pakistanis would next start celebrating the Hindu Diwali or the Christian Christmas.

In past years, conservative social groups, who view the day as a festival of immorality detrimental to traditional marriage, have declared the day to be “shameless”.