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‘Burqa’ (veil) still admired by Pakistani women

Mashood Ali

‘Burqa’, a traditional veil worn by women in public places, continues to remain a common feature of our society as it is still admired by women in Pakistan, particularly Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and adjacent tribal areas, despite all modern features of our life.

There is a row of shops on Maulana Mohammad Ali Johar Road at the back of the historic Qissa Khawani Bazaar, where ‘burqas’ are sold. The road is named after the great leader of the Independence Movement who had addressed a public meeting here in pre-partition days. ‘burqas’ of all types and shapes can be had from these shops at reasonable prices.

Rehmatullah, a 55-year old owner of a shop selling ‘burqas’, said he has been in the business for the last 30 years. He told The News that there were three main types of the veil liked by women. “The one which was quite popular among the tribal women was the ‘Mohmandi Burqa’, also known as the shuttlecock. This ‘burqa’ with embroidered border was popular in Orakzai, Bajaur and Kurram agencies,” he informed.

“The cloth used for making this type of ‘burqa’ is purchased from Karachi and Lahore along with all the embellishments. It is cut and given proper shape in Peshawar,” he said, adding price of this type of ‘burqa’ varied from Rs300 to Rs400 and is available in wide range of colours.

Another kind of ‘burqa’ is ‘Cheena Burqa’ or China ‘Burqa’. Shopkeeper Rehmatullah said the cloth for this type of ‘burqa’ was imported from China and the local tailors sew it. It is available only in four colours — white, grey, black and sky blue, he added.

Since the cloth is imported, its price is Rs200 — more than the ‘Mohmandi Burqa’. Afghan women like it and this is the reason it is also known as ‘Mohajara Burqa’.

Another shopkeeper, Abdullah, a 50-year-old who has been selling veils for 20 years, said the Peshawari women go for a third kind of ‘burqa’ known as Arabi ‘hijab’ or Arabic ‘hijab’. He said that this kind of ‘burqa’ was popular throughout the Islamic world. He said in the other parts of the Muslim world it was simple in design and outlook but here in Pakistan it is elaborately made and is quite fashionable.

Abdullah said in appearance it was different from the other two kinds as it looked more like a silk coat with no cap hiding the face of the wearer. Such type of ‘burqa’ is also known as Abaya and is quite expensive. Its price ranges from Rs 400 to Rs 700 subject to the embroidery done over it. He said many customers of this ‘burqa’ were expatriates living in Middle Eastern countries who buy it at reasonable price in their hometowns in Pakistan.

Abdullah said his past two decades experience showed women liked ‘burqa’. However, he said the popularity of ‘burqa’ among the tribal and the families living in and on the outskirts of Peshawar was affected mainly because of price hike. Chaddar prices are relatively lower than the ‘burqa’ and it is the reason that sale of ‘burqa’ is facing a gradual decline.

Wife of Professor Rehmat Hussain, a teacher at a local school on Warsak Road, said the environment played a vital role to motivate someone to wear ‘burqa’ or ‘hijab’. She said when she was in Dera Ismail Khan, majority of the women would observe purdah in public places but when she came to Peshawar and settled here, she was not encouraged to use veil.

Another woman, wife of Sajid Gul living in Peshawar city, said she used to wear chaddar in public places in the past but she visited Iran some five years back where she used to follow the public dress code of Abaya and since then she started wearing ‘burqa’ even in Peshawar.

Wife of Mohammad Ali, a teacher who uses the Arabic ‘hijab’ said it covered her entire body, which gave her great satisfaction. She said she felt comfortable and protected in ‘hijab’ and this made her confident to do all the jobs with ease.

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