The NEWS have published this editorial entitled – morality brigade -on how public spaces are being denied to the youth in Lahore. This is deplorable and needs to be questioned…
A bizarre notice, worded in Urdu and installed at the Bagh-e-Jinnah in Lahore, warns students that they are not allowed to enter the public garden, unless they are on an educational trip. For this they must bring a letter from the head of their institution. It is assumed the purpose behind the directive is to prevent young men and women from meeting at the city’s largest garden or taking a stroll beneath its leafy trees. The bar on students amounts to a restriction on their right, as equal citizens, to free movement. It also deprives them of space to enjoy a picnic or to study in a pleasant, relatively noise-free environment. Dozens of students can be seen in the park at exam time poring over their books on a bench or revising lessons as a group. No one should be deprived of these simple pleasures of life. It is also a fact that many students lack a conducive study environment at home.
As for the idea of ‘morality’, the restriction simply means that couples seeking to spend time together will go elsewhere. If they do enter the sprawling gardens they presumably face harassment from police, often present there. We must also ask who has authorized the sign? No law exists to prevent students either skipping classes or from meeting those of the opposite gender. The kind of misguided morality we see behind this notice has already inflicted grave damage on our society. The Punjab government needs to take note of it, and adopt measures to ensure no one’s rights are curtailed. Arbitrary measures such as those at the Bagh-e-Jinnah act to stifle life, add unnecessarily to the suffocating atmosphere we live in and encourage extremists who have in the past attempted to impose their own brand of morality on all of us, in some cases by using bombs and other means of violence.