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Pakistan formed part of the Mughal Empire, and more recently, together with India and Bangladesh, was part of the British Empire. On independence in 1947 the state of Pakistan was formed with two wings, West and East. In 1971, after a war, East Pakistan seceded and became the separate country of Bangladesh. Pakistan has five main ethnic groups of its 147 million population, they speak seven main languages and 97% of them are Muslim.
Note to images: where not attributed, the pre-1975 pictures are taken from ‘Women of Pakistan’, a book produced by the Government of Pakistan for International Women’s Year, 1975.
Demonstration in front of Women’s Jail, Lahore, which had in it many Muslim women arrested by the British Government.
“The dream of an egalitarian social order based on a just and democratic economic system will never come true if the female half of the population continues to be the subservient sex.”
Begum Nusrat Bhutto, wife of PrimeMinister Zulfikhar Ali Bhutto, March 1975. Pakistan took an active part in the 1975 International Women’s Year and Nusrat led the delegation to the UN’s first women’s conference in 1975.
Women from one of the mainstream politico-religious parties Jamaat-e-Islami protesting outside the Supreme Court against Qazi Hussain Ahmed’s imprisonment – one of the leaders of the Jamaat-e-Islami. They have filed a petition against his arrest and are therefore making the ‘Peace’/’Victory’ sign.
The Daily – Pakistan – Lahore, January 2002
These women’s class, backgrounds and status show through their dress as clearly as through the work they do…
Working class fast food outlet, Lahore.
K M Chaudry, The Muslim, March 1990
AFP, The Nation, September 1999
Harvesting wheat in Punjab (2000)
Women crossing the dried up Indus river in search of water, Sindh Province.
AFP, The Nation, March 2001
In the 1960s kameez (tunics) were short and the shalwar wide. None of the women has covered her head with the dupatta.
AFP, Daily Times, May 2003
Group of National athletes at the National Training and Coaching Centre, Karachi.
Note the variety of covering which would not nowadays be possible – all would be in track-suit bottoms and baggy long-sleeved shirts to cover the body shape.
Punjab University Inter-Collegiate Women’s Cricket Championship at Lahore College.
Dawn, January 2000
Hockey in Lahore
Iqbal Ch, The News, April 2001
Lahore College for Women sports day
Dawn, February 2000
Pakistan: Another Vision, Fifty years of painting and sculpture from Pakistan, 2000
Lahore, Camerapix, Pakistan, 1994
She is one of the very few women riding a motorcycle one can see on the streets of Lahore.
Linden-Museum, Stuttgart, Arts and Crafts of the Swat Valley, Johannes Katter, 1989
Pathan women of Peshawar, c 1910.
PostcardModes and Codes:traditional dress to ethnic chic
Stylized variations of the shalwar-kameez traditional to most parts of Pakistan are now commonly seen at specially staged ‘cultural events’ and sell in shops around the world to better-off women who know little or nothing of the culture the dress comes from or the weight of meaning it once carried.