ISLAMABAD: Matching the highly discriminatory and widely condemned French policy on Islamic dress code for women, authorities in a military-controlled educational institution for girls in Rawalpindi Saturday barred the candidates for teaching jobs from sitting test when they refused to remove their veil and Abaya.
In an unprecedented incident of its kind in Pakistan, the administration of an army-controlled institution taking written test for teacher jobs ordered hundreds of women to remove their veil and Abaya if they wanted to enter the exam center — Federal Government College for Women, Abid Majeed Road, Rawalpindi Cantonment.
Different posts of teachers were advertised on November 18, 2012 and the Federal Government Educational Institutions (Cantt Garrison Directorate), 190, Sir Syed Road, Rawalpindi sent letters to thousands of candidates in the second week of September 2013.
The written test for the post of “Trained Undergraduate Teacher (TUGT)” was scheduled for Saturday (September 28, 2013) at FG Women College. The test for the post of Matric Trained Teacher (MTT) is scheduled for Sunday (September 29, 2013) at FG Women College, Kashmir Road, Rawalpindi.
On Saturday, a camp was set up outside the FG Women College, Abid Majeed Road where women staff asked all candidates to remove their veil and Abaya before entering the college. According to eye-witnesses, around 40 percent candidates were wearing veil and Abaya. Some candidates removed their veil but many insisted that they should be thoroughly frisked but not forced to remove their veil or Abaya on the road in front of men.
“We were asked in plain words: remove your veil and enter the test center; otherwise, you can leave the place,” a candidate told The News.
“Many students refused to be humiliated at the hands of such people and left the place without participating in the test,” a female candidate said, adding: “Even Palestinian women are not asked to remove their veil at the Israeli check posts.”
The female candidate told The News that girls told the staff that dress code was not mentioned anywhere in the letter and they should be allowed to enter the premises after which they will remove their veil. However, their request fell on deaf ears.
A few days back, British judge Peter Murphy held that a woman can continue to be the part of proceedings of a case while wearing veil and she will have to remove her veil only during the recording of witness. The judge held that the courts should recognise the freedom of religious expression. No person from the Federal Government Educational Institutions (Cantt Garrison Directorate) was available for their point of view.
However, some officers said no such incident ever happened in the past and women were allowed to enter any test center after proper search for security reasons.
They said only courts could intervene and order the military authorities to re-conduct the test of all those who were humiliated and were not allowed to enter the test centers on Saturday.