New Year gatherings not for ordinary citizens
When it comes to New Year, the first thing that comes to the mind of the residents of Islamabad is not partying but the security arrangements put in place by the local administration to restrict any gathering at public places.
Though there are people who hold New Year parties in hotels, clubs and other locations in major cities with the organisers even advertising their plans on the social media, no such event is openly arranged in the federal capital.
On the other hand, the city administration and the capital police devise plans to maintain peace mainly by enforcing Section 144.
Deputy Commissioner Islamabad Amer Ahmed Ali told Dawn that the plan was to ensure the rights of the ordinary residents and protect their life and property.
“Restrictions are already in place on wheeling and racing while our assistant commissioners will be out with the police to check public gatherings or any unruly crowd that could disturb the citizens,” he added.
However, it is not correct to assume that there is no partying in the federal capital at all. Most of the prominent hotels, private clubs, some of the boutiques and even farmhouses organise gatherings.
The entry to such gatherings is restricted to close circles only. Most of the participants to such parties are the younger lots from the elite class.
“We do hold New Year party at a farmhouse and police never disrupt us,” said a white-collar employee of a private company.
“This is mainly because only people from the elite class participate in it.”
Apart from the hefty entry tickets, the invitation to such functions are forwarded to close circles through emails, SMS and even floated on the Facebook.
However, for the ordinary citizens, partying, enjoyments and even social gatherings on the New Year are usually considered a taboo. For the ordinary youths, the New Year attractions are limited to hovering around on motorcycles without silencers.
And since nobody is holding any party publicly, there is no need for the so-called Islamic brigades which used to be active in the 1980s and 1990s some with the code names of thunder squads, baton wielders or preachers mainly constituted by the religo-political parties.
For the families, it is dinning out or staying indoors if the weather does not suit outdoor activities.
It is also a fact that with the growing influence of religious organisations, a large number of people do not see themselves fitting into the New Year celebrations.
Besides, though the majority of an individual’s life is scheduled according to the Gregorian calendar, most of the Pakistanis claim that this is not their calendar.
“This is a Christian calendar and nothing in accordance with Islam, so why do we celebrate it,” said Mohammad Aziz, an employee of a private organisation.
However, in this era of internet and access to information, many people ignore the fact that the Gregorian calendar was the extension of the Roman calendar and finalised by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582.
One key reason for the strong reaction by some people to welcoming the New Year on January 1 with holding celebrations is the opposition by religious segments.
Maulana Abdul Qudus, the spokesman for Wafaqul Madaris al Arabia, said they were not opposed to marking the arrival of any month or year with enjoyment.
“But it should be in accordance with the teachings of Islam.”
He added: “It is a conspiracy to ridicule Islamic norms in the garb of celebrations and we will oppose such moves. We are opposed to obscenity, besides such activities are wastage of time and money.”
However, the New Year usually provides one key opportunity to both liberals and religious segments of society – test their weapons by firing into the air.
“This is the best time to test our weapons as there is no facility for ordinary citizens even with valid licences to check their arms,” said Mohammad Yaqub, a resident of Rawalpindi.
But the residents of Islamabad have to be extra cautious as the city administration has directed the police to take action against those found firing into the air.
“We are determined even to register cases even against the residents of posh sectors if they are found opening fire into the air5,” said the deputy commissioner.