The conservative socities of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has always been in efforts to counter women involvement in public matters and their access to public places — at least when they don’t have a veil on. Most people here are of the view that unaccompanied women visiting bazaars is not only against the Pashtun traditions but also against Islam.
Now whether if that stands true or not? I’ll leave that to you. But the local masharan of Hangu have a completely different approach: they think it doesn’t matter if women have a veil on or not; they should not be allowed to go shopping at all.
Yes, you heard that right!
In another bizarre development, the local masharan in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Hangu district just put a ban on women shopping in bazaars.
According to our sources, the decision was taken jointly by the local masharan, the dukan malikan, and the Pasban organization. Karak: A Local Committee of Khattak Ittehad has imposed. The committee claims that this step will help to counter vulgarity in the area.
The new decision prohibits female shoppers without an accompanying mehrum entry into the Doaba and Hangu markets.
A notification received by the local shopkeepers in this regard confirms the ban and also warns of heavy fines in case of violation. The notification also warned the traders that, in case they were found violating the new orders, their shops will be sealed for at least a week.
Additionally, the notification also directed the dukandars to remove the parda (curtain) system made in bazaars and markets and going further, no special curtains for women would be allowed to be installed in any of the district’s shops.
“In the case that a storekeeper does not agree to the decision of the local elders, he will be forced to leave the area for violation of policy,” asserted the notification.
Earlier this year, a similar ban on female shoppers was also imposed by local right-wingers in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Karak district during Ramazan. According to a justification issued by Karak’s reactionary organizations, the restrictions had been put in place in order to prevent “unveiled women from entering markets and spreading obscenity in the area.”
Similarly, in the year 2018, the province’s educational institutes were also forbidden from inviting male chief-guests to female sporting events.
However, unlike previous limitations on women in public, the latest strait-laced ban on female shoppers by Hangu elders has received severe backlash on social media.
Subject to social media’s grave concerns and the locals’ reservations over the ban, the issuing authorities withdrew the initial notice.
In a recent statement, Sardar Ali Bangash, head of the Elders’ Organization responsible for the ban, said the notice was issued in response to a spike in immoral activities in the area.
“We had no intention of offending anyone. Seeing the social media outcry on the issue, we have withdrawn the initial notice and also submitted a written apology to DPO Hangu,” said Bangash.
“However, our reservations about the curtain system are still intact. We have urged Hangu Deputy Commissioner that curtains installed in the shops should be removed immediately and action should be taken against the shopkeepers who don’t comply,” he added.
Taking notice of the ban, Dr. Samira Shams and Ayesha Bano submitted a resolution in the Provincial Assembly. The resolution clearly states that no such hidebound policies will be entertained in the province.
“Whether a woman is married or unmarried, whether she leaves home alone or with a mahram, it is up to her family to decide. The government should take notice of the transgressions of local organizations in legal affairs and take strong action against it. No one has the right to ban women’s shopping.”
Shahid Khan, the Hangu District Police Officer, also commented on the situation; arguing that no organization will be allowed to impose any kind of ban at its own will. “The police should be informed if there’s any information on immoral activities taking place in the region. It is the responsibility of the state to deal with such matters,” Khan added.
What is your take on banning women from shopping places? Do you think the ban should stay put? Let us know in the comments.
Thumbnail social image credits: Dawn