Government urges HEC to revoke their Holi notice

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    The Higher Education Commission (HEC) has faced strong backlash after issuing a letter condemning the celebration of Holi, a Hindu festival, at a university. Following widespread criticism, the government intervened and requested the HEC to withdraw the letter.

    Salman Sufi, the head of the Prime Minister’s Strategic Reforms Unit, stated that the Education Minister, Rana Tanveer Hussain, had taken notice of the HEC’s notification and instructed them to retract it. Sufi emphasized the importance of promoting religious harmony and unity in society. “Religious harmony is to be celebrated rather than deterred. Have spoken to Rana Tanveer and he has taken stern notice of the notification by HEC on discouraging religious festivals and has asked them to withdraw it. We must bring cohesion than division in our society,” Salman Sufi said on Twitter.

    Although the HEC’s letter did not mention any specific institution, it was prompted by a Holi event held at Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad, which was captured on videos circulating on social media. The letter, written by the HEC’s executive director, Dr. Shaista Sohail, instructed universities to refrain from celebrating Holi, citing concerns about Pakistan’s Islamic identity and its impact on the country’s image. “Unfortunately, it is sad to witness activities that portray a complete disconnect from our socio-cultural values and an erosion of the country’s Islamic identity. One such instance that has caused concern was the fervor exhibited in marking the Hindu festival of Holi. This widely reported/publicized event from the platform of a university has caused concern and has disadvantageously affected the country’s image,” the letter said.

    However, the letter has faced widespread criticism, particularly in Sindh, where there is a significant Hindu population, as people argue that such events are part of Sindhi culture. Lawyer and rights activist Jibran Nasir has called on Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to intervene in the matter and demanded the withdrawal of the HEC’s letter. In response to the criticism, both the HEC and the Ministry of Education have distanced themselves from the executive director’s stance.