South Asia

School principal held for blasphemy; medical varsity forces veil on students in Pakistan

The head of a private school in Lahore was arrested on charges of blasphemy, even as a Peshawar medical university introduced a conservative dress code forcing female students to wear the Islamic veil.

Salma Tanvir, principal of the Umar School System in Nishtar Colony was booked on Monday on a complaint by local imam Qari Iftikhar Ahmad, who accused her of distributing a blasphemous pamphlet that “insulted the prophet Mohammed and also claimed that she was a prophet,” police official Muhammad Irfan told DPA.

Ms. Tanvir was taken to a police station after dozens of angry people attacked the school and smashed the windows on Tuesday.

Mr. Irfan said more than 20 police personnel were deployed at her residence to prevent attacks by the extremists.

None of her relatives could be reached for comment as they were reportedly hiding due to fear of reprisals by the militants. The school has also been closed.

Hundreds of people have been charged under blasphemy laws introduced by former military ruler Zia ul Haq in 1985.

Demands to amend the controversial decree have been met with violence.

A former Christian minister and a liberal-minded Governor of Punjab province were killed in 2011 for criticising the blasphemy regulations.

Islamic veil

The Khyber Medical University in Peshawar, capital of the north-western province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, has introduced a conservative dress code forcing female students to wear the Islamic veil, the management said on Wednesday.

The decision was to promote “the culture of modesty,” said a university official.

“It is to promote Islamic values and to preserve traditions,” said Noor ul Iman, principal of the affiliated Khyber Medical College, with 1,500 students. More than half of students are female, he said.

Male students are also required to wear loose trousers and a long shirt popular in most parts of Pakistan, the principal said.

Western dress is increasing popular among Pakistan’s urban youth, including in Peshawar, a city surrounded by tribal areas under Taliban control.

The decision triggered protest and a majority of students refused to follow the new dress code, student Irfanullah Marwat said.

“We don’t accept it,” the 22-year-old said. “It is harsh. Nobody should force us what to wear.” But Iman said the management would not change the decision.

Militants seeking to implement sharia law in Pakistan have, in the past, forced people to dress “modestly,” but this was the first time a university has taken such a step.

It was the latest sign of increasing conservatism in Pakistani society.

Last week, the Government ordered mobile phone operators to discontinue free late-night packages popular among young people because they contradict “norms of the society.”

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Printable version | May 7, 2021 11:51:17 PM |

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