PTA and the Naik Perveen

Ok here is what I call a major LOL sequence of events. And if you don’t know what LOL is then you probably won’t get the joke either. But here it goes anyway.

PTA, short for Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (not Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf, mind you), has asked all cell phone companies in the country to put a ban on their midnight call packages. The explanation is that these midnight call packages are cheap and attractive – hence they lead to cheap and attractive things happening in the lives of the young people of Pakistan. So the most logical conclusion is that these packages should be banned so that the moral values of the society can be preserved.

And the most LOL element of this whole saga is that the democratic government of Pakistan is behind this decision. In fact, there is even a committee in place whose sole job is to think profound thoughts about the dangers of late night calls made by the young people of Pakistan to other young people of Pakistan who might or might not belong to the same gender.

And after the profound thinking is done with and a decision put in place, certain other people called “regulatory heads” get together and hold lengthy discussions on how to regulate the love lives of the youth of the country. This leads to some more nodding of the regulatory heads and some more profound statements being made in the media.

To quote one good Ms Kalsoom Perveen (or is it Naik Perveen) of parliament, “We strongly object to the night phone packages...Because these packages are not right for the youth.” Well what can I say if not LOL all the way?

I just have one concern though. How exactly do we define the term ‘youth’ in our country? This might be a digression from the real issue, but it bothers me all the same. Considering that the most popular youth leader in our country is 60-years-old, and the young parliamentarians representing the cause of the youth are mostly in their late 30s, I often wonder what youth is exactly.

In fact the word ‘youth’ has become the most abused cliché in our political and media discourse. Political parties play tug of war over the youth in order to push their agendas, moral brigades target youth every time they get a new brainwave based on their personal failings as parents, and bans are put in place at the drop of a hat every time the poor youth goes out to have some fun.

And if youth is how PTA defines it i.e. a faceless herd with endangered moral values who stay up all night long and make cheap calls from their mobile phones, then all I feel for the youth is a lot of sympathy. How sad it must be to be the youth in Pakistan.

First, we make all the fun things haram for them, and then we ban the almost free things. It all started when the Taliban decided that music and education were not good for the youth. Then it was Maya Khan who decided that parks and early morning walks were not good for the youth. Or was it the youth who was not good for the parks and the early morning walks? Forgive me for the lapse please. Sometimes it is very difficult to remember these things. Then it was PML-N who decided that Imran Khan was not good for the youth (and vice versa). And now it is the PTA who has decided that late night phone calls are not good for the youth.

You know what? I have decided something too. I think being the youth is not good for the youth. So why don’t we ban the youth itself and see where it takes us? Roughly translating an Urdu proverb, if there is no bamboo, there would be no bamboo mania, right?

It is interesting to note that none of the people who make these decisions are young themselves. But I have a strong feeling that when they were actually young, somebody must have made their lives pretty miserable. I wish Freud were alive to make a judgement call here. But jokes apart, I have an academic question for these people and I need some urgent answers.

Question 1: How do the parliamentarians know that these midnight packages are only utilised by the youth of the country? Do they have any data? Considering that the person spearheading the committee on cheap call rates is a woman, she must know that cheap things in this country are not only done by the youth but the fathers and uncles of the youth as well. And by comparison, the things the fathers and the uncles do are much more vulgar than the things done by the poor young ones. So is there a committee in place thinking profound thoughts about the decline in the moral values of the elderly of Pakistan? If not, then why not? And if yes, then what are they banning next?

Question 2: Regardless of who utilises these packages, do these wise men and women actually believe that attitudes can be reversed by placing such bans? If people are making all-night calls it is not only because they have cell phones, it could also be because they want to make these calls. And when they won’t have the packages to make those calls, they might decide to get out of their homes in the middle of the night and walk all the way to make personal calls. So what would the PTA do then? Impose curfews on the roads that lead the youth to each other?

Answer me Ms Naik Perveen and answer me now. My patience is running out and the moral values in the society are not getting any better.

The writer is a teaching fellow at the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, LUMS. Email: adiahafraz@


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