Every society needs legislation to maintain law and order among its populace and to provide people with welfare and safety. However, sometimes legislation ends up being just about the personal whims of legislators, and a weak system and weaker politicians end up trying to pass legislation that can only be described as bizarre.

Not every law that is enforced upon people is a just law but an attempt by an oligarchy to make people conform. Such laws give credibility to the opinion that the most coercive entity is the state itself. It seems that the Pakistani state is a firm believer in the above-mentioned proposition. The federal government has decided to introduce a law for naming public places after prominent personalities, proposing strict punishment for calling a place with a different name other than its notified name, even unintentionally. This means that calling Allama Iqbal International airport, “Lahore Airport”, can be a criminal offense.

It seems that the government has taken a divine injunction too literally where God commands people, “And do not insult one another and do not call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” It is ridiculous that this is the only way legislators can think of honouring national heroes and that time would be wasted on such a frivolity. If our heroes have to be remembered by threat of a fine or worse, the state needs to take a hard look at itself and how it chooses to control and cajole its citizens.

Cursorily, one can see it as an attempt on government’s behalf to take culture seriously. If the bill gets the approval of both the houses, Pakistan will join the list of the countries that have some really strange laws. The proposed bill is equivalent to a law in Georgia where it is illegal to let your chickens cross the road. Or one can see this piece of legislation as pointless as one law in Cambodia that forbids citizens to use water guns to celebrate the New Year. Wouldn’t it be better if the National assembly was debating how to reignite the National Action Plan, make sure there are no delays in judicial process, create better welfare laws – or a hundred other serious issues that need serious attention?