Alarm over ‘resurgence of religious extremism’ in Pakistan

Rights activists say forcing schoolgirls to wear burqas is Talibanization at work
Alarm over ‘resurgence of religious extremism’ in Pakistan

Schoolgirls in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa attend class wearing burqas handed out by the Justice Party. (Photo supplied)

Pakistan’s ruling Justice Party has come under fire for allegedly promoting Talibanization in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Muzaffar Shah, a leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), bought around 100 shuttlecock burqas and distributed them at a government-run girls' school in Mardan district in the northwestern province.

He said he had bought the garment for parents who could not afford it.

The move came just two weeks after the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government issued a circular making it compulsory for female students to wear the abaya (a full-length outer garment) and veil to prevent themselves from being harassed.

The controversial order sparked online outrage, prompting provincial authorities to hastily withdraw it within 24 hours.

A ‘restriction of women’s freedoms’

Pakistan’s independent rights group, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, denounced the government on Oct. 6, saying it was a deliberate attempt to promote Talibanization in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

“We are perturbed by the resurgence of religious extremism in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the form of the KP government’s distribution of burqas among female students,” the commission said after the biannual meeting.

“Such moves are blatant attempts to restrict women’s freedoms and a deliberate attempt to promote Talibanization.

“First of all, dress code is a personal choice and no one has the right to impose it,” tweeted Palwasha Abbas, a member of the left-wing Awami National Party.

“Secondly, the #Paroney [a traditional waistcoat] and sadaar [head covering] is a part of Pashtun culture, not the burqa — the education department should pay attention to improving the education structure, not this.”

Another Twitter user, Nasir Khattak, said: “When they distribute shuttlecock burqas among schoolgirls, not pens and books, you know what they really want: an intellectually malnourished society which sees woman as an object and which certainly cannot think.” 

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