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A purported letter from a university in conservative Muslim Pakistan has been shared repeatedly in Facebook posts that claim male and female students were warned they faced fines if they failed to keep their distance from each other on Valentine's Day. In response, the university and the official whose name appears on the purported letter told AFP it was fake. As of February 19, 2022, there was no evidence that the letter was ever published on the university's website.
The purported letter -- featuring the letterhead of the University of the Punjab in Lahore -- was dated February 13, 2022.
It was shared in a Facebook post on February 14 -- Valentine's Day.
The annual occasion has become increasingly popular among young Pakistanis, but many in the conservative Muslim country disapprove of the celebration as an indecent Western import.
The post's Urdu-language caption translates to English as: "University of the Punjab, Lahore has issued a notice against Valentine's Day".
The purported letter asks male students to wear prayer caps and female students to wear black burqas on Valentine's Day.
It reads: "It is hereby announced that all boys of University of Punjab are supposed to wear White Prayer Caps which are mostly used at International Tablighi Jamaat Gathering at Raiwind [town] all girls are supposed to wear Black Burqas with black hand gloves and black socks on 14th of February "Haya Day"."
Tablighi Jamaat is an Islamic missionary movement.
Haya Day -- which translates as "modesty day" -- is an annual anti-Valentine's Day observation in Pakistan, typically marked by rallies from Islamist parties.
A court banned public celebrations of Valentine's Day in the capital Islamabad in 2017.
The letter goes on to warn that anyone who fails to maintain a 100-metre (300-feet) distance from themselves and a member of the opposite sex faces a 10,000-rupee (US$55) fine, and will be forced to attend meetings with the Islamic party Tablighi Jamaat for four months.
The letter is signed "Muhammad Rauf Nawaz, registrar".
However, the University of the Punjab said in a Facebook post on February 14 that the message was a "fake notification":
The university's public relations officer Khurram Shahzad said the institution was investigating the "fake" notice.
Muhammad Rauf Nawaz, the university registrar whose name appears on the fake letter, said his name had been misused.
"It is fake and it has not been issued by us. When any notice is issued, it is placed on our website and copies are sent to various offices and departments," he told AFP.
"We have reported it to the [police] cyber crime department, but it is difficult to trace the origin of such misinformation, particularly from WhatsApp."
A keyword search on the university's website found no evidence that any such letter was sent to students.
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