The Lahore High Court on Thursday directed the Punjab government to ensure the respect for the national flag saying that it should not be printed in other colours than green and white. Justice Shahid Bilal Hassan of the LHC passed the order, one that is appreciated considering the wide array of modified flags that exist currently that violate the sanctity of the national flag. The flag sports everything from politician’s faces to tigers and lions to cartoon characters and thus it was important to take note of this insensitivity towards a respected icon.

However, the ban on “defacing” the flag goes beyond it being used for a personal/commercial or political agenda. It extends to it being printed on clothing and being used as bunting, both of which people do out of a well intentioned love for Pakistan. Ironically, the decision may end up repressing the same nationalism it is trying to protect.

While our history and culture dictates the respect of the flag, an elaboration may be required on what amounts to “disrespect”. Many may be irritated by the proliferation of the national flag on all manner of consumer goods; hats, glasses, pins, t-shirts and pants all sport the green and white colours near Independence Day, but it is not necessarily true that these placements are disrespectful. This is a public symbol, and it cannot be policed effectively. The economy gets a little boost every year in August due to commercial activities that appropriate the flag. This local industry desperately needs consumers and a flow of money to survive. Banning the usage of the flag has consequences outside of the somewhat one-dimensional issue of “disrespect”. Banning misses out how embedded the flag and nationalism is in the national psyche and economy.

The religious aura surrounding the adoration of the flag- as a venerated object and a consecrated national symbol - is deep rooted in the history of our nation. It deserves the respect that our forefathers gave it and by no means should its sanctity be violated. However the citizens should be allowed to express their joy at Independence Day by donning green and white and decorating their houses with buntings and the flag in its true form and this should be made clear lest the ban on disrespecting the flag becomes a ban on the flag.