Pakistan HEC withdraws restriction on festivals after severe criticism

Islamabad [Pakistan], June 22 (ANI): A day after the controversial announcement, Pakistan Higher Education Commission (HEC) on Thursday withdrew the letter expressing objections to the celebration of the Hindu festival of Holi at a university, the Dawn reported.

This comes after the HEC faced widespread criticism received nationwide after its executive director, Shaista Sohail, issued a letter taking exception to the celebration of the festival in a university.
Salman Sufi, the head of the Prime Minister’s Strategic Reforms Unit, clarified that Education Minister Rana Tanveer Hussain had instructed the HEC to retract its controversial letter.

According to the latest HEC statement, HEC is “highly respectful” of all religions and in “no way intends to hurt” anyone’s sentiments.

“HEC was highly respectful of all religions, faiths, and beliefs, and the associated festivals and celebrations observed in the country. The message communicated in this regard is in no way intended to hurt the sentiments of any individual or group,” Dawn quoted the letter.

The letter further stated that the perception that HEC had banned any festivity was “out of context”.

“Our letter portrayed impression and disseminated connotation that HEC has banned the celebration of any festivities is out of context to the spirit of the communication made, as HEC has emphasized upon the higher education institutions in the country to focus upon the core reason of their existence i.e., academic excellence, research quality and harnessing the talent of the youth towards a structured, disciplined, and responsible citizen as per the nation’s ideology,” the letter stated.

The letter acknowledged that the message conveyed in the communication had been subject to misinterpretation and it is withdrawing the notification for the aforementioned reasons, Dawn reported.

Pakistan HEC sparked an outrage after the HEC banned Holi celebrations across all educational institutes, claiming that it had caused concern and disadvantageously affected the “country’s image” and “erosion of Islamic identitiy”.

The move came after pictures and videos from their Holi celebration at the Quaid-I-Azam University (QAU) in Islamabad went viral on social media earlier this month, in which students can be seen dancing and throwing colours in the air as loud music plays in the background.