Land of the absurd

On Tuesday, the Punjab Assembly ‘unanimously’ passed a resolution seeking a ban on ‘objectionable’ musical concerts in public and private educational institutions. The original resolution, moved by PML-Q’s Seemal Kamran, was against all concerts, as they were somehow considered ‘unethical’ and ‘immoral’. At first the treasury opposed a blanket ban but later acquiesced after the insertion of the word ‘objectionable’ instead of all musical concerts on the insistence of Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah. The redoubtable minister then tried to justify the ban in the light of the stampede that took place at a concert recently without explaining how that concert was ‘objectionable’. Once the resolution came under fire from the media and civil society, the Punjab government distanced itself from it as an afterthought. PPP parliamentarians claimed that only a handful of parliamentarians were present in the assembly, thus the passage of such a resolution should not be a blot on the entire Punjab Assembly. PPP MPA Sajida Mir tabled another resolution yesterday against Tuesday’s resolution.

The new resolution notwithstanding, it is abominable that the assembly of the largest province of the country actually thought it fit to ban ‘objectionable’ concerts without even defining the word. If the assembly cannot even use its collective brains to come up with a proper definition of the word ‘objectionable’, people can only shake their heads at the intellectual and mental incapacity of arguably the most backward province of the country. As it is, the space for cultural events and entertainment activities has shrunk due to the threat of terrorism. Youth have no healthy activities to look forward to, which might lead them to indulge in unhealthy activities in frustration instead. Concerts are public events and to date we have not heard of a concert where anything ‘objectionable’ — whatever that means — has ever taken place. In trying to take this supposedly moral high ground and becoming a moral police, the Punjab Assembly is proving its lack of vision, narrowness and stupidity. They must hang their head in shame for coming up with a despicable resolution in the first place.

Let it be noted that intolerance and extremism based on misplaced religious zealotry is not just confined to Punjab but has taken over our whole society. Recently a morning show host on a private TV channel donned the mantle of the moral police seeking out couples enjoying a relaxing time in parks. Not only did she accost them, she also accused them of doing something their parents would not approve of. The scenes from that particular programme could only horrify those who stand for freedoms and advocate good sense. The said host did apologise to her viewers even though it was anything but a proper apology. As for the new resolution in the Punjab Assembly, it is a silver lining in an otherwise very dark cloud.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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