Monday, August 30, 2010

One Dish, One Rule for Everyone!

One Dish, One Rule for Everyone!

On-Air: Thursday, January 29, 2009 {7PM, 3AM, 12PM (PST)}

What to make of a law that aspires to break free from senseless spending and pretentious extravagances under societal pressures? One would think it would be extremely popular with the masses. Why then is the law of one-dish at weddings met with so many petitions filed in high courts and supreme courts against it? Agreed the “Marriage Functions (prohibition of Ostentatious and Wasteful Expenses) Ordinance implemented in 1997 was slightly rigid in restricting wedding functions to only hot/cold drinks and insensible in dictating the number of guests allowed at weddings (not to exceed 300). However, the law, re-implemented in 2008 in Punjab (with the return of the Sharif brothers) and still unobserved in other provinces, has become much more flexible. {The Marriage Functions (Prohibition of Ostentatious and Wasteful Expenses) Ordinance 2000 under which the Punjab government is allowing only one-dish at wedding parties (one dish includes “one curry/salan, with rice and bread/roti and one sweet dish”)}. Today when Pakistan is experiencing an economic meltdown coupled with increasing global food costs (150% price hike of rice in the past year, shortage of flour etc.) this law has come as a blessing in disguise for middle and lower class Pakistanis. One might argue why the need of such desperate measures in a country where Eid and weddings are the only two times of rejoicing, the latter being grand, ostentatious, and lavish cultural events. However, one must understand the societal pressures and expectations which drive the poor to bury themselves under debt just to please and appease relatives and in laws. Weddings are a matter of prestige in our part of the world, cutting across class spectrum in this largely impoverished country of 160 million people, where the World Bank estimates per capita income is $800 a year. In the wake of this law how are caterers, poultry farm owners and marriage hall owners faring? People come up with newer ways everyday to serve lavish wedding dinners, whether by calling guests at home after the functions, having friends ‘host’ dinners, labeling it ‘aqeeqa’ or ‘birthdays’ etc. Information Secretary Nayyar Mahmood said the government will rely on anyone from police to snoopy neighbors to report violators, who risk fines of 100,000 to 300,000 rupees ($1,430 to $4,285) and confiscation of the food. The implementation of this law is questionable to date, including the actions and scope of the police - whereas the police are not allowed to raid private properties they are nonetheless suspended if authorities find out the law was breached (two SHOs were suspended on 23rd of December 2008 from service for not enforcing the ban on lavish wedding parties in Lahore).

I spoke to a representative of PML (N) - the party which introduced and re-implemented this law, a caterer, a marriage hall owner, DCO Lahore, and a religious scholar. The Islamic scholar put it beautifully, in that Islam preaches never going to the extent where one feels weighed down or compromised.  


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