Basant no more

The Pakistani state, it appears, doesn’t want its citizenry to have any time out from living in a country that may or may not be the most dangerous in the world. For Lahoris, this means that for the 13th consecutive year their city’s skies will not be full of colourful kites. Meaning that the Punjab government has once more decided to uphold the Supreme Court ban on Basant. This is despite annual recommendations to make it as safe as possible, including restrictions on the use of sharp or glass-coated string. It is most unfortunate, then, that the country has been without this kite-flying festival for almost as long as the Americans have been in Afghanistan.

And then comes the PEMRA reminder that both print and electronic media must refrain from promoting St Valentine’s Day later this month; in accordance with a ruling last year by the Islamabad High Court. The latter also barred ‘public’ celebrations anywhere in the country. Indeed back in 2016, President Mamoon Hussain had urged the citizenry to turn its back on the day given that it represents western and not Muslim culture.

While this may have once been true — the march of global capitalism has long put paid to such outdated demarcations. Meaning that under this prevailing system, companies aim to maximise profits any which way they can. This is where the appropriation of traditional religious celebrations such as Christmas, for example, has come into play. The result being that spiritual significance is largely thrown asunder in favour of mass consumerism. And here in this part of the world, we fare no better with Eid. From chocolate brands to soft drinks — everything takes on a profitable festive spin.

It’s a shame then that the state can’t tell it how it is and slam the global capitalist system that feeds it. This would at least be more honest than what is happening today. Here in Pakistan we are already facing an ever-shrinking breathing space. Indeed, it would be far better if the courts or PEMRA itself called for a direct media blackout on the likely upcoming elections campaigns by certain so-called reformed assets. That, after all, would be in the national interest.  *

Published in Daily Times, February 9th 2018.