CHITRAL: Religious clerics, including local leaders of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), seem to be in a blind alley after expressing open warning against the opening of a women exclusive market in the town.
While the owner of the market was ready to get it inaugurated to provide a free environment to the women of Chitral to purchase needed items from women stallholders/shopkeepers, the hardline clerics came out with the logic that such a market would be tantamount to violating the Purdah of women and dragging them to the open marketplace. They even declared it un-Islamic and against the culture of Chitral.
It may be mentioned that women in Chitral are not allowed to visit any market or bazaar to purchase even items of their daily use, including garments etc. The women have to purchase everything from shoes to undergarments through the male members of their families.
Keeping this situation in mind and to provide an opportunity to the women to purchase items of their choice independently, a citizen came up with the idea of establishing a separate market where women would operate different shops.
This same idea was endorsed by the District Council Chitral at a meeting held on Aug 23, 2017. The members of the council during that meeting discussed the issue related to women visiting market places for shopping and opposed it. They then passed a resolution stating that a women exclusive market in Chitral was the only solution to the issue of women visiting markets.
The meeting of the District Council chaired by its convener Maulana Abdul Shakoor of the JUI opposed open shopping by women in the bazaar area. The members stressed the need that a separate market should be set up for women where they could go for purchasing anything from women stallholders/shopkeepers.
The house also asked for stringent security measures in the market to be set up for women. A committee was set up under the head of Maulana Jamshed Ahmed of the JI to submit recommendations, including a proper place for the establishment of the women market, so that the local government could allocate funds for the execution of the project.
Though no tangible progress was made by the committee, the two religious parties – JUI-F and JI – have now given a twist to a similar project when it was materialized by a local citizen who already owns a major market in the town. They now say that the establishment of such a market would be against the Islamic values and culture of Chitral, asking people of Chitral to oppose it.
The residents of Chitral have expressed their bewilderment over the double standard of the religious parties on the issue and said the clerics used the name of Islam and Chitrali culture to oppose anything that did not suit their vested interests. They said if the establishment of a women exclusive market was un-Islamic or against the local culture, why the elected house of the people dominated by the same religious parties, passed a resolution in favour of it only six months back?
They said in the changing world, keeping women subjugated and violating their rights in the name of culture would not work. They said rights defenders should take notice of the illogical stance of the religious parties in order to ensure that women were given their due rights in all fields of life.