Every year on Valentine’s Day, the University of Peshawar turns into a battlefield. This year too, the Pakhtuns Student Federation (PSF) and Islami Jamiat Tulaba (IJT) clashed over the same old issue. IJT declared 14th February as “Haya day,” and when they attempted to disrupt the PSF-arranged Valentine’s Day event, things quickly took a turn for the worse. What started with hurling stones and aerial firing has now escalated to the torching down of hostel rooms.

In many ways, what happens at the University of Peshawar every year is an excellent metaphor for Pakistani society. The situation inside the university premises is reflective of the environment outside. While global liberal views everywhere understand that differing points of view can co-exist, that communities can agree to disagree, and that discourse is important, in Pakistan we prefer to cast the first stone, (or the stone first).

Moral policing has its own social and media culture here. For years, it has been encouraged in our homes, our classrooms and now, in the mainstream media. IJT’s decision to observe ‘Haya day’ in order to counter Valentine’s Day celebrations in the university highlights the predicament quite well; that nothing is a personal choice here and that absolutely everything is open to politicization.

Secondly, the element of violence in colleges and universities across the country is alarming, to say the least. Considering these stone-hurling, gun-shooting, room-torching lads are the country’s future, no one should be surprised if things get worse over time. Our universities are falling short of educating students on the tolerance of dissent; that hallmark of adulthood. Of course, in the spirit of true democracy the IJT has every right to boycott Valentine’s Day in line with whatever they may believe. It is the constant and casual resorting to violence, abuse and disrespect that is cause for concern and needs redress, perhaps most relevantly from inside our higher education institutions.

If these student organisations do nothing other than blindly follow the political parties they are affiliated with and continue to practice and promote hooliganism, something must be done. The UoP administration is overwhelmed and underpowered, as always. Will someone step up and take responsibility, or are we to wait for the entire episode to repeat itself next February?