LAHORE - The sale of chocolates and flowers have surged while dance parties have been planned to mark the Valentine’s Day today. Although religious leaders opposed marking the Day, the event has gained growing popularity particularly among the youth in recent years. The event is especially celebrated with enthusiasm in colleges and universities, where students wear colorful dresses, especially red outfits, on the day associated with Saint Valentine, a figure of remote history in the western world. This day has become more popular among the youth and liberals in this insurgency-infested country, who believe that the Valentine’s Day is a perfect occasion to express love and affection to your parents, life-partners, and siblings as well. “We have seen more customers as compared to the previous year,” says Nauman, a salesman at a coffee shop in Gulberg area. In Lahore, a good number of makeshift flower kiosks have been set up to sell flowers and other items related to Valentine’s Day apart from those outlets which are doing business on regular basis at Liberty, Regal Chowk, More Pekhewal, Fortress Stadium, and Defense area. Several hotels and restaurants have also wore a new look with profoundly decorated venues to attract the customers. All such points are offering special lunch and high-tea packages. They are also offering special discounts for the families with children. Bakeries are offering special ‘heart-shaped’ chocolate cakes and cookies wrapped in heart-shaped red boxes. Ads have gone viral on the internet. A number of companies are offering online services for buying and transportation of gifts to the loved ones. The Lahore’s Coffee Planet is celebrating the Day by spending time with the underprivileged children of SOS Village in an effort to make them feel special and to encourage Pakistanis to express their love for all factions of society. “Everyone will be spending the day with their loved ones, so we thought what can be better than celebrating the day of love with those who need love the most but often go neglected? That’s the message that we are spreading amongst our customers this year,” says Kashif Anwar, the CEO of the outlet. The global coffee chains and food outlets have also made special arrangements to celebrate the day. “To me, some people misunderstand Valentine’s Day to be some sort of un-Islamic festival, which it really isn’t,” says Mahmood, a student of a private university in Lahore. Liberal analysts believe that even the smallest expressions of love are shunned because people don’t understand them. In the end, it’s all perception, they added. Maria, a college student in the city, says that she doesn’t care whether celebrating the day is seen as an act of defiance because she just wants to have fun. “I love to enjoy. I love parries and colours and Valentine’s Day is full of fun. It’s not a bad thing,” she believes. Although the youth and liberals celebrate the day yet many people particularly religious groups strictly oppose it. They say that Valentine’s Day is more about Western consumerism and there is no space in Islam to celebrate such an event. For them Valentine’s Day is an immoral and un-Islamic activity. These groups consider events such as Valentine’s Day and the New Year as an attempt by the Western to keep the Pakistani youth away from Islam.This news was published in The Nation newspaper. Read complete newspaper of 14-Feb-2014 here.