K-P clerics ban women from shopping without male relative

Merchants say they will convene jirga on Wednesday to review the ban.

Reuters July 20, 2013
Women found alone in the marketplace will be arrested and shopkeepers entertaining such women will be punished. PHOTO: AFP.

DERA ISMAIL KHAN: Clerics in parts of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa have issued a temporary ban on the shopping of women unless they’re accompanied by a male relative.

District police official Fazal Hanif told Reuters that the ban, which was announced over mosque loudspeakers in the Karak district on Friday, is being supported by the police.

According to the new law, women found alone in the marketplace are to be arrested and shopkeepers entertaining such women punished.

One trader said he feared the ban would affect business and damage the region's reputation.

"We never supported this ban and [have] convened a meeting on Wednesday to protest over the clerics' decision," Munawar Khan, one of the merchants in the region, told Reuters.

The mosque announcements said the ban was intended to stop men from being distracted during sacred period of Ramazan. The annual period of fasting and prayer falls in July this year.

The ban was proposed by the faction of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party led by Fazl-ur-Rehman (JUI-F), local administration official Sarfaraz Khattak claimed.

Such religious parties have typically performed poorly in Pakistani elections, winning only a handful of seats. But mainstream politicians are often slow to criticise religious leaders, partly for fear of being targeted by their supporters.

Reuters learned that some residents of the area also oppose the ban.

"The male members of the family don't have enough time to take women to the market," said Mohammad Naeem Khattak. "Where can women go for shopping if they are banned in the market?"