According to a circular by the directorate of elementary and secondary education in AJK, the rule of hijab has been made compulsory in co-education institutions. The deputy director of AJK was a signatory and the reasons cited were for modesty and religious obligations. However, there are many contentions against the ruling passed.
Firstly, if the decision was taken in consultation with parents and teachers, how was this consultation process held? The AJK education minister, Deevan Ali Khan Chughtai, has insinuated complete acceptance of the ruling in society and this mandate is termed a collective ask. However, it is clear from his comments that the decision was enacted hastily and for the benefit of specific interest groups, not the wider society. His analysis also makes the decision seem poorly thought out and inefficiently planned. Likewise, he highlighted a vague nod to complaints received on the absence of a dress code in co-education systems. What is the nature and scale of these complaints that warranted a mandatory policy as such? If this was truly such a pressing concern for the masses, why is this just now getting highlighted, and that too, in such a reactionary and ambiguous manner?
As for the religious obligation argument, while it may be true for some, religious values and moralities are not a monolith. Every family and individual has the right to practice their religious values in a subjective manner and so personal decisions such as this should be at personal discretion. The policy, at the moment, seems baseless and authoritarian. While the penalization for failure to follow the dress code is unclear, the kind of action to be taken against transgressors should also be clarified.
Using the hijab and reducing it as a policy and power tool is wrong. Even on the public front, such developments bring critique and ridicule from international entities. It is hoped that this public reaction against the decision will lead to a clarification of its terms and revision.