“Who are they to tell me what is right and what is wrong?

How will wearing the dupatta over my head make me a

better and more moralistic woman? And why is this

being dictated to me by men?”

–Mahtab Rashidi host of the popular show on PTV called

‘Aap Ki Baat,’ when asked to cover her head on TV, 1982.

Suggesting that the issue of women’s modesty was for the women to decide and not for finger-wagging males to dictate, she stormed out of the show. She was not to appear on PTV until after the demise of the Zia dictatorship in 1988.

This was the period when various women’s organizations were pouring out onto the streets of Lahore and Karachi to protest against what they thought were the Zia regime’s discriminatory and misogynistic policies and laws against women. But just when these women were being baton-charged by the cops, women newscasters on TV began appearing with dupattas on their heads and no make-up.

Zia’s Ministry of Information to ask women newscasters, and actresses in TV plays to be ‘modestly dressed’, and with the least amount of make-up. After making his women audience to wrap their heads up with dupattas (hijabs were still a distant invention in Pakistan), he now wanted to see all women in Pakistan doing the same in public.

Today, such modes of resistance have also become important for the women’s movement, one that is readily trying to get their right back to occupy public places. Through driving rickshaws, sitting in dhabas, or just simply playing cricket on the streets, such ways of resisting are powerful ways of fighting patriarchy.