Friday, July 19, 2024

Pak to withdraw objection to Holi celebration at university

Salman Sufi, who heads the Pakistan Prime Ministers Strategic Reforms Unit, said Education Minister Rana Tanveer Hussain had asked the Higher Education Commission (HEC) to withdraw a notification in which it took exception to the Hindu festival of Holi being celebrated at a university.

“Have spoken to Rana Tanveer sahib, and he has taken stern notice of the notification by the HEC on discouraging religious festivals and has asked them to withdraw it,” tweeted Sufi after the media reported about the notification, Dawn reported.

The notification was sent by HEC Executive Director Shaista Sohail to vice chancellors and heads of institutions.

In its letter, the HEC claimed the “widely reported/ publicised” event of the celebration of Holi by the platform of a university had “caused concern and disadvantageously affected the country’s image”.

“Unfortunately, it is sad to witness activities that portray a complete disconnect from our socio-cultural values and an erosion of the country’s Islamic identity.

One such instance that has caused concern was the fervour exhibited in marking (the) Hindu festival of Holi, Dawn reported.

While the HEC letter did not name the varsity in question, it comes after Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad gained attention on social media for hosting an event for Holi, which took place on March 8.

In one of the videos circulating on social media, students can be seen dancing and throwing colours in the air as loud music plays in the background.

The letter advised HEIs to “prudently distance” themselves from all such activities “obviously incompatible with the country’s identity and societal values”.

The HEC’s letter drew the ire of netizens online, Dawn reported.

Sindhi journalist Veengas said Islamabad needed to understand that Hindu festivals of Holi and Diwali were part of Sindhi culture.

“Islamabad neither accepts our Sindhi language nor does it honour the Hindu festivals,” she said, Dawn reported.

Former Dawn editor Abbas Nasir said, “HEC should focus on plagiarised papers by PhDs as those actually tarnish the country’s image. Holi and other such festivals enhance the country’s image, create a mirage of pluralism.”

Activist Ammar Ali Jan said the commission should be more concerned about the “dismal state of education” in Pakistan.

“Our universities are not even ranked in the top 1,000. Yet, HEC is more worried about students celebrating Holi. Such misplaced priorities are the reason for the intellectual/moral decay we see in society,” he said.

Researcher Ammar Rashid termed HEC’s letter “vile religious bigotry”.

In another tweet, he said: “Imagine the outrage if a European or Indian higher education secretary banned Eid celebrations in universities because they were ‘incompatible with the country’s values’.”

Comedian Shafaat Ali pointed out that Holi was “purely this region’s, especially Multan’s, festival”.

He further said that the festival could be made a source of religious tourism in Pakistan and could promote religious tolerance in society.



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