By Major Retd Zubair Khalil Khan
A burqa is an enveloping outer garment worn by women in some Islamic traditions to cover their bodies in public places. The burqa is usually understood to be woman’s loose body-covering. In Pakistan, the use of the burqa has greatly declined, however, burqa use, to some extent, persists in Khyberpakhtoonkhaw and some adjoining areas of Punjab and Balochistan. Other smaller cities all over, which have a majority Pashtun population have burqa-observances as part of orthodox traditions. These traditions are independent of religion, and women from minorities such as Christian and Hindu women also observe them. However, the burqa observances remain localized and most of the women who observe burqa within traditional areas, do not do so when and if they travel out of the area.
Since few months a new phenomenon has started emerging in which use of women covering themselves in all enveloping burqas has accelerated in suicidal bombing. According to the departments/agencies responsible for dealing with suicide bombings, the emerging phenomenon of female bombers covered with all enveloping burqas poses now a much bigger challenge to security agencies in Pakistan since women in their all-enveloping burqas (veils) can easily breach security. The security agencies added that a veil is perfect for the concealment of explosive devices as well as suicide jackets. Recently conducted, Peshawar suicide bombing was the third suicide attack carried out by a woman in Pakistan since December 2010. There, a female suicide bomber attacked the police post on August 11 in populated city area. Peshawar is the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwah Province of Pakistan. The attack resulted in killing of seven people in the first deadly suicide attack during the holy month of Ramadan. The target of the female bomber, who was presumed to be of 17 years old, was a police post that was completely destroyed in the attack. The female suicide bomber first threw a hand grenade on the check post, 20 meters from the site of the first blast, which had already killed seven people including five policemen, and then she blew herself up. Since the bomber’s vest failed to explode fully, resulting in one death only. Witnesses were reported as saying that before the explosion they had heard the young lady scream: “Allah-O-Akbar.” (God is great). Well-informed circles in the security agencies say both the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and al-Qaeda have established female suicide bombing cells in remote areas of north western Pakistan and north eastern Afghanistan. The existence of these cells has been confirmed by many authentic sources. Additionally, Mr A Tariq, spokes person of TTP told the media that Tehrik Taliban has a large number of women suicide bombers ready to be used in future attacks against the security forces to avenge the Pakistani military for operations in the tribal belt. Human Rights Watch and other similar organizations have strongly criticized TTP for using women as human bombs. Those concerned with the problem now fear that the new mode of using females to create havoc could complicate the efforts to stem a growing insurgency by extremists given the fact that women in Pakistani culture, especially in a conservative society like Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, are rarely frisked or searched in security checks.
Until a few months ago, many Islamic quarters were critical of burqa ban by France, Belgium and Italy by declaring it interference in the religious freedom of Muslim Women. In depth arguments forwarded by intellectuals of these countries, however, always revolved arround security threats which wearer of this dress can pose in public.Though, no such obvious incident happened in these countries but unfortunate scenario has started unfolding in Islamic Country of Pakistan, that too through the hands of so called custodians of Islam, the Talibans. According to one source, Interior Minister of Pakistan Mr Malik has already started examining the possibility of putting enveloping burqa ban in public places merely due to security concerns. If any such law, out of security compulsions, is imposed in Pakistan what will be the plight of this country where Islam is considered as the life line of its inhabitants. It looks as the minds and hearts of fanatic Talibans have stopped functioning and they are unable to realise with what fire they have started playing by using the female suicidal bombers. One can only pray and wish that Almighty Allah may enable these fanatics to follow the true teachings of Islam. Amin!