June 22, 2023
By Maryam Missal
The Higher Education Commission (HEC) of Pakistan rescinded a notification, issued on June 20, directing higher education institutes (HEIs) to distance themselves from celebrations of non-Islamic religious events like Holi.
The notification, which addressed the administrative bodies of HEIs, made reference to Holi at a university. Although the document did not make express mention of the name of the institution, the Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad recently celebrated Holi on its campus, with videos of the event circulating online. The Commission declared that such events portray a disconnect with the sociocultural values and Islamic identity of the nation.
HEC instructed HEIs to “… prudently distance themselves from all such activities and focus more on academic pursuits, rational discourse and intellectual debates.”
Following this notification, social media was taken by storm by scathing criticisms of the HEC for snubbing a cultural and religious festival.
Veengas, a journalist and editor of The Rise News, while talking to Voicepk.net said that the Commission has no authority to control the social practices of students.
“If they plan on moral policing, they should reconsider the Doctorates and Phd employees of their institute and instead hire Islamic clerics,”
Veengas commented on the authority of HEC.
Jibran Nasir, a lawyer and social activist, tweeted that that the HEC’s advice is not only disrespectful to Pakistanis of the Hindu faith but also violates the constitution.
Not only should the HEC immediately withdraw its letter but it should also issue a public apology to all students practicing the Hindu faith for terming celebration of #Holi as tarnishing image of Pakistan. The advisory issued by HEC is not only derogatory to beliefs of Hindu… pic.twitter.com/gsuue5Yx0g
— M. Jibran Nasir 🇵🇸 (@MJibranNasir) June 21, 2023
Ammar Ali Jan, a leader of the Haqooq-e-Khalq Party (HKP) and social activist, regretted the HEC’s misplaced priorities and termed it a reason for the intellectual and moral decay of Pakistani society.
HEC should be concerned about the dismal state of education in the country. Our universities are not even ranked in the top 1000. Yet, HEC is more worried about students celebrating Holi. Such misplaced priorities are the reason for the intellectual/moral decay we see in society.
— Ammar Ali Jan (@ammaralijan) June 21, 2023
Following the backlash, the HEC revoked the notification today, stating that “The portrayed impression and disseminated connotation that HEC has ‘banned’ celebration of any festivities is out of context to the spirit of the communication made.”
In reference to the revoked notice, Veengas clarified that the language of the advisory was simple and objective and therefore had not been misinterpreted by anyone. In fact, she asserted, it left a threatening impact on people across the state.
“Did the HEC ever issue objections on others who held Islamic events in universities? Why issue a notification against Holi in the first place?”
Veengas posed the question.