It is that time of year again; fragrant red roses at street corners. Vendors stocking up on gift boxes, chocolates and sentimental cards. Children cutting out crepe paper hearts for their loved ones. People celebrating the idea of love as opposed to divisive ideologies. And of course the affronted hordes of conservatives, policing all those who dare to partake in this day of profanity and turpitude… with a little help from PEMRA.

The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) on Wednesday issued an advisory directing local media to “desist from promoting Valentine’s Day” as per an order of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) that was issued last year on a petition by an incensed citizen who deemed Valentines Day un-Islamic.

What needs to be highlighted in this instance of offended morality, a routine state in our society, is the inflammatory role of the state and judicial institutions. The IHC last year set a precedent for moral policing based on the personal definition of morality for one individual. Rather than focusing on eradicating social ills like hate speech and bigotry, the IHC, PEMRA and the government apparatus have exacerbated dogmatism by condoning such enforced morality.

There is need for deliberation on how an event as innocuous as Valentines can behoove government and judiciary alike to take such a tyrannical approach. Recent censorship bans by PEMRA like those on contraceptive advertisements, filtering websites over blasphemous content and serving notices to tv shows that tackle controversial yet pressing social issues like abuse, all point to the regulatory body’s assuming a more hegemonic and sanctimonious role in dispensing censorship.

Such censorship exonerates the proponents of violence and radicalism that ultimately anoint themselves as the harbingers of moral conduct. Attesting to such violence is the harrowing testament of Saad Aziz, convicted for the murder of social activist Sabeen Mahmud, citing her activism around Valentine’s Day as one of the reasons she was targeted. Even more so disheartening is that PEMRAs ban comes in the wake of the verdict of Mashal Khans murder, lending legitimacy to the misguided ethos of oppression purported by the supporters of his attackers.