University students across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa appear to be up in arms over the government’s decision to impose a province-wide dress code.
Referring to it as an act of moral policing, many university students are dead set on opposing the move, which they claim, has been implemented unanimously across the province, without taking their views into consideration.
“This is shameful and incomprehensible. Why is the government policing the universities of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa?” questions Yusra Khan, a Peshawar-based undergraduate student. She further wonders how the university will implement a decision that goes against the wishes of the students.
“We are following our culture. We are not children, we are mature students. The university wants to limit our thinking and take us back to an era where women were not allowed out of their homes without an abaya,” she says.
A few months ago, Governor Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), as Vice Chancellor of the universities, directed educational institutes across the province to follow a dress code.
Shortly after the orders were issued, Hazara University, University of Peshawar, Islamia College, Agriculture University Peshawar, and others in K-P directed students to abide by the conservative approach, which advises women to wear an abaya while forbidding them from donning tight jeans, T-shirts, putting on heavy makeup and jewellery, or carrying heavy bags at educational institutes. Similarly, male students were told not to wear tight jeans, wrist chains, and long hair.
Romaisa Tariq, a student at the Agriculture University, while talking to The Express Tribune, said that the government wanted to police the students and implement the decision, but the students would never follow such decisions. “Universities are closed right now but when they reopen, we will resist,” she warned. Tariq further added that such decisions were not implemented anywhere in the country except K-P.
“Already, the Covid-19 pandemic has made it difficult to continue our education, and if such a decision is implemented, many female students will drop out from the universities,” she cautioned.
While most students actively plan to resist the decision, the government had some support. Welcoming the move, Tahir Ullah, a student of Islamia College, said: “At known places like Oxford University, the dress code is the identity and recognition of the students.”
“Universities across K-P should focus not only on the dress code but also on the financial issues that students face. Every year, the admission fee and other related charges are increased. Many students can no longer afford higher education,” he said.
State of affairs
Dr Khadim Hussain, an educationist, while talking with The Express Tribune, said: “The implementation of a dress code at universities goes against the wishes of the students. It is like we are returning to the period of radicalization and extremism.” The government, Dr Hussain claimed, has failed to improve the quality of higher education in the province.
He also brought up the cases of harassment reported in Islamia College, noting that no action had been taken against the accused faculty members. Taking a potshot at the provincial government he said: “We are already living in a society that prevents girls from accessing and completing education. Imposing a dress code will strengthen negative views about the higher education environment.”
Advisor to the Chief Minister on Higher Education, Kamran Bangash, while talking with The Express Tribune, said that universities have the right to follow a dress code to eliminate the difference between the rich and poor.
“We are not policing the students but giving them the right direction as the decision will not only benefit the students but it will also help the parents,” Bangash adds.
He further said that by following the dress code, the students will be able to focus on their academics instead of competing for the best attire.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 19th, 2021.