9th January 2021

Bureau report

LAHORE: Mughal Khan Afridi, the owner of the Malam Jabba hotel where students of the Lahore University of Management Science (LUMS) held a party a month ago, has been released on posting Rs40,000 in bail.

According to media reports, the hotel was holding a harvest festival from December 3 to 6, 2020. Students of the private Lahore university were seen dancing under the open air to music playing on loudspeakers in a video that went viral a few weeks later.

In response, Malam Jabba police registered a case against the hotel owner and manager, as well as about 30 to 40 unidentified students, under section 294 (obscene acts and song) of the Pakistan Penal Code and Section 33 of the National Disaster Management Act 2010 (punishment for obstructing an officer) on the complaint of Station House Officer (SHO) Javed Iqbal.
The latter charge was imposed for failing to observe COVID-19 standard operating procedures.

In a phone call with Voicepk.net, Afridi stated that he had been detained for three to four days, after which he was ordered to pay the fine by a district magistrate.
He said that at the time of arrest, the police demanded from him why he had not sought permission to arrange the party. The 60-year-old hotelier expressed his confusion over this, stating that such arrangements and parties are common for tourists and guests in Swat.

SHO Iqbal, the complainant in the FIR, explained that the police took action when video of the party went viral nearly a month after it was recorded.

He further stated that they could apprehend the students seen in the clip circulating online as they had already gone back to Lahore.

Criminal action against the partying students, who were seen at some distance from each other when dancing, drew ire on social media.
Critics were of the view that such moral policing is completely unjustified while others lamented that the police’s actions will have a negative impact on tourism, an industry which the Swat Valley is highly dependent on.