Islamia University Bahawalpur, the only public sector university of Bahawalpur and one of the oldest and largest in Pakistan, has recently made wearing the black abaya compulsory for its female students of MBA department. According to an official notification at the end of March, uniform was made compulsory which included abaya or black gown with black dopatta for female students. According to sources, the head of the respective department took this decision in an instant move after seeing a female student in an inappropriate dress. While head of the department was displeased with the dress of a certain student, other eye witnesses do not think that the dress in question was unusual and inappropriate as such.
Students’ reaction to this administrative move is mixed. Some favor it as a step to promote piety and morality while others see it as an excessive and regressive move to curtail basic freedoms. In any case this step must raise questions about the powers and role of administration. Is administration allowed to enforce dress code on adult students? Given the whimsical nature of the act, will such a precedent not lead to blur the line between what is justified and what is not?
(Published in The Laaltin – May 2013)