Pak education dept faces outrage after objecting to Holi celebrations in university

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

New Delhi: Pakistan’s Higher Education Commission (HEC) has taken an exception to the Hindu festival of Holi being celebrated at a university, claiming that it had “caused concern and disadvantageously affected the country’s image”, it emerged on Wednesday, local media reported.

The letter said that HEC had been formulating its policies based on the concepts “embodied in our own culture, values and traditions, thus preserving the nation’s ideology”.

“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.

MS Education Academy

“This widely reported/publicised event from the platform of a university has caused concern and has disadvantageously affected the country’s image,” the letter said, 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, Dawn reported.

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. 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, Dawn reported.

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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