The recent news that Holi & Diwali are going to be declared national holidays has been received with considerable warmth all over the country. The progressive sections of the society are hailing this act as a step towards a more tolerant Pakistan and a victory for the liberal sections of the Pakistani society.
Sindh has already declared a full provincial holiday for the festival. This was done keeping in mind the large number of Hindu community residing in the province. Sindh is also the province where the festival was celebrated with most vigor. Rang fights were held all over the province and the Muslims joined in on the fun as well. Not only did the holiday provide an opportunity for the Hindu community to celebrate its festival with state support, it also helped to build bonds between people of different faith. The holiday has, without a doubt, great potential to mend social relations and build a more cohesive society.
Declaring Holi & Diwali to be a national holiday can go a long way in promoting inter-faith harmony in the country. This is particularly important in light of the fact that our society has faced a constant barrage of criticism from the international community for being ‘an anti-minority’ society. This is our chance to break a negative stereotype and portray a positive image of Pakistan.
It is sad to note that whenever Pakistan makes it to the news, it is largely for crimes against minorities and terrorism. Over time, our country has built a reputation for being an intolerant, extremist nation that has little regard for the rights and security of its minorities. By celebrating a festival of minority communities, Pakistan can show itself to be a tolerant nation that is just as open-minded as any other country in the western part of the world.
While many have supported the government’s measure to celebrate Holi & Diwali, there are certain elements that have criticized it as well. Most opponents of this law claim that it is against the Islamic values upon which the idea of Pakistan was conceived. According to them, celebrating a unislamic festival is equivalent to betraying the memories of the founding fathers and all their struggle for the country.
Others argue that it is simply mindless to celebrate, on a state level, a festival that is representative of only a tiny minority. They believe that a holiday on such an occasion is simply a waste of time and that nowhere else in the world do we see a complete holiday for a minority festival.
Some conservatives also believe that by promoting a Hindu festival, we are moving away from our Islamic roots and imparting wrong morals and ideas to our children. They claim that their children should not grow up hearing about unislamic festivals as it could harm their faith. Many had a bone to pick with the government over the fact that while the Iqbal Day holiday has been cancelled, a holiday for Holi & Diwali has been declared.
While the opponents of the new law our many, the proponents are equally enthusiastic in their support of the holiday. No matter what one may say, it is true that the holiday is a great idea by the government to achieve interfaith harmony and improve the image of the country as well.