Aamna Haider Isani in Dawn:
Interestingly, in the early years after Partition, the dupatta’s symbolism was more national than religious. For example, the uniform of the Pakistan Women’s National Guard that was formed during the Kashmir War included a dupatta. ‘Since Pakistan was a Muslim state, the dupatta was naturally part of the uniform. However, it was just a sash across the torso…a starched V-shaped dupatta,’ recalls former Sergeant Abeeda Abidi in an interview with the Citizens Archive of Pakistan. Clearly, this sash was meant to be more of a comment than a covering.
The years that followed saw leaders such as Fatima Jinnah and Begum Rana Liaquat Ali Khan enter politics. Unlike their female predecessors in the armed forces, these women made public appearances with their heads covered with a dupatta, which was deciphered as a symbol of modesty. Since they had set the trend, women who stepped into politics in subsequent decades were expected to follow suit.
In 1966, the uniform for the PIA airhostesses, designed by Paris-based fashion sensation Pierre Cardin, also included scarf-like dupattas over graceful tunics. In this incarnation, the dupatta was viewed more as an attractive accessory than a symbol of Muslim womanhood.
Although a dupatta has always been part of the attire of female politicians of this predominantly Muslim state since the beginning, trends among the masses have been slightly different. It was only in the late 1950s that the dupatta became an integral part of the urban-middle-class woman’s outfit. Before then, some women wore burqas and chadors. But younger women who were looking for some form of covering increasingly opted for dupattas as they proved to be a less stringent alternative. More: