Implementing the decision of dress code in KPK.
Pictures of school-going girls wearing burqas went on viral on social media, resources said burqas were bought by local authorities, igniting anger across the country where women have fought for their rights for decades.
A district councilor in the small village of Cheena in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province used Rs90,000 of local government funds to buy around 90 burqas for students at the government-run middle school in the village.
The official, Muzafar Shah, said he had bought the garments at the request of parents who could not afford them as one of his final acts before stepping down from his four-year tenure.
“Around 90 percent of the girls already wear burqas, so I thought these poor girls should have new burqas,” he told AFP, adding that previously he had used the funds to buy the school a solar panel, build a washroom and purchase new furniture.
District councilor claims he made purchase at parents’ request
But he snapped two pictures — one showing a classroom full of girls wearing the burqas, and a second showing them piled on a desk — which swiftly ignited outrage on social media.
Gulalai Ismail, a women’s rights activist who fled the country recently for New York, cheered the outrage.
“I’m glad to see time is changing and now more & more people are standing up against objectification of women in the garb of protection,” she wrote.
Mr Shah said he did not understand the criticism. “The people of the area are very happy with me… had I distributed jeans among the girls, the media and liberals would have praised me,” he said.
Provincial Minister for Education Ziaullah Bangash said an inquiry had been launched into the matter, and stressed that the garment was not part of the school uniform.
“Our dress code includes white trousers and a loose blue tunic; however it is up to girls if they want to dress a burqa over the uniform. We can’t force them,” he added.
The move came weeks after the government was forced to scrap an order for female students to wear veils in two other conservative districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa .
Burqa wearing was common for centuries in the ultraconservative ethnic Pashtun heartland that straddles the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. It gained international notoriety when the Taliban came to power in Kabul, Afghanistan. The Taliban punished women for not wearing the burqa and it became a symbol of religious intolerance and sexual oppression