Guns and roses: Valentine’s Day celebrations spark controversy

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February 14 was a busy day for the University of Peshawar’s on campus police. Instead of making sure that students were in class, they were busy keeping members of the Pukhtun Students Federation (PkSF) away from those of the Islami Jamiat Talaba (IJT) as both groups were armed and one student was shot at.

The university, which is listed as one of the leading and historical educational institutions in the country and has produced greats like Ahmed Faraz, became a battleground on Valentine’s Day when student leaders of two political parties – Awami National Party’s PkSF and Jamaat-e-Islami’s IJT – opened fire at each other. The problem started when PkSF announced it was in favour of celebrating St Valentine’s Day while the IJT wanted to observe Haya Day.

Members of the PkSF claim that IJT activists were going around campus in the morning separating couples and forbidding them from celebrating Valentine’s Day on campus as it was against their religion. They added that the IJT wanted the university students to observe Haya Day instead of remembering St Valentine on Friday.

The federation’s chairperson, Mukarrab Khan, said that one of their members was sitting with his friend when IJT activists asked them to stop talking and leave the area. This led to an argument and then a fight between the two.

“Our man was holding a red balloon when the IJT activists walked up to him, burst it and then started beating him up,” said Tariq Afghan, PkSF’s former leader. He added that IJT activists clashed with PkSF members during a walk against Valentine’s Day at around noon. Afghan said that IJT members opened fire at PkSF members, who then retaliated and started firing too. He added that two people were injured.

The rooms of PkSF members at the university dorms were also burnt and the PkSF believed it was done by IJT.

On the other hand, the IJT claims that they were observing Haya Day and had held several programmes for the occasion. They claimed that the PkSF held protests against them on campus.

“We held a programme at the university and were on our way to the academic block when they [the PkSF] started chanting slogans against us and then opened fire,” said IJT’s University of Peshawar campus nazim Shah Zaman Durrani.

The university has set up a committee to look into the issue. The administration held a meeting to discuss what happened and what will be done about it. They also plan to launch an operation to search the university’s hostels for weapons.

The official version

Police said a member of the IJT was shot and injured in exchange of fire between the PkSF and IJT on Friday. The young man was identified as Rizwanullah and he was taken to Khyber Teaching Hospital. They added that after Friday prayers a group of 120 IJT members stormed the AB Block hostel, broke the windowpanes and set six rooms on fire. They then proceeded to march towards Jamrud Road and blocked it for about 20 minutes. The campus police said that an FIR will be registered.

Source: The Express Tribune.