Faith-Based Politics, Enlightened Moderation and the Pakistani Women’s Movement


Zia, Afiya. 2013. “Faith-Based Politics, Enlightened Moderation and the Pakistani Women’s Movement.” Journal of International Women’s Studies 11 (1): 225–45.


Author: Afiya Shehrbano Zia


Soon after his coup in October 1999, General Pervez Musharraf reassured the Pakistani people that his was not an obscurantist religious agenda. Instead, he referred to the Ata Turk model as his inspiration in his mission to rescue Pakistanis from corrupt democratic governments that had dominated the 1990s. A photo release of him holding two Pekinese dogs in his arms (commonly considered na-paak or unclean by Muslims) and surrounded by his short-haired wife, elderly mother and artist daughter, earned him a seal of approval from progressive upper-classes at home and the international community at large. Unlike the previous dictator, Gen Zia ul Haq, who carried out the oppressive and misogynist Islamisation project between 1977-88, this new-age military ruler seemed to espouse modern, ‘secular’ and liberal credentials. Thereafter began an era that has been dominated by several sociological changes in the country. In this article, three underlying concepts will be explored in relation to these changes and their impact on women. These include a critique of the romanticisation of the agency of women members belonging to the religio-political party in government; the strategic shifts in ideological positioning within the women’s movement; and the impact of the debate over religion and secularism in relation to women’s political reality. This essay discusses the interplay of the understandings and contradictions of Islamic and secular identity politics in the Pakistani women’s movement. The methodology incorporates a reading of existing scholarship as well as observation of feminist activism in the political context of Pakistan. 


Keywords: Islamist agency, secular feminism, Pakistani women's movement

Topics: Feminisms, Gender, Women, Gendered Power Relations, Political Participation, Religion Regions: Asia, South Asia

Year: 2013

© 2023 CONSORTIUM ON GENDER, SECURITY & HUMAN RIGHTSLEGAL STATEMENT All photographs used on this site, and any materials posted on it, are the property of their respective owners, and are used by permission. Photographs: The images used on the site may not be downloaded, used, or reproduced in any way without the permission of the owner of the image. Materials: Visitors to the site are welcome to peruse the materials posted for their own research or for educational purposes. These materials, whether the property of the Consortium or of another, may only be reproduced with the permission of the owner of the material. This website contains copyrighted materials. The Consortium believes that any use of copyrighted material on this site is both permissive and in accordance with the Fair Use doctrine of 17 U.S.C. § 107. If, however, you believe that your intellectual property rights have been violated, please contact the Consortium at