Saturday, February 20, 2010

Fashion Statements

Oh shoot. Here we go again with fashion weeks and Pakistan. Can we do anything in Pakistan without it being linked in some way to either appeasing the Taliban or kicking sand in their faces?

Assaulting the Taliban, yet again

I refer of course to the latest "I-spit-on-the-runway-the-Taliban-sashay-down" type of pieces in the American Christian Science Monitor (titled predictably "Lahore Fashion Week Takes on Talibanization in Pakistan") and in Britain's The Times about the just concluded Lahore Fashion Week. The latter may be headlined a bit more soberly ("Pakistan Fashion Week Pushes Back Boundaries") but the prose is nothing less than a deep shade of purple.

For example, here are the opening lines:

"A call to prayer echoed over the red carpet. The celebrity guests and socialites of Lahore lifted their diamante stilettos through the scarlet pile, careful not to trip as they showed lipsticked smiles – and bare shoulders – to the flashing camera bulbs."

Just in case you forgot what The Times was aiming to get at, you understand. Gasp! Muslims. Fashion. Shock. Bare shoulders. Horror. But far be it from The Times to simply imply something when they can get their facts utterly wrong in black and white:

"Pakistan’s first Government-endorsed fashion week finished yesterday. There is hope that with it will disappear decades of the government repression that had previously forced the scene underground."

Underground scene? Hellooooo! We just had another fashion week in Karachi, not three months ago! Kind of missed the bus on the "underground scene", by like, two decades, don't you think? I think The Times has kind of got Generals Ziaul Haq and Musharraf confused... which would be fair enough in some respects but certainly not this. Just to put the record straight, do recall that fashion shows (which existed before and even during Zia's regime) were being sponsored by Benazir's government in the early '90s and even taken abroad as part of her foreign delegations. And what was the Mush reign, if not about state-sponsored fashion?

General Musharraf walks the ramp in his Amir Adnan sherwani

Here's some more editorial pronouncements by writer Mary Bowers:

"A triumph for young liberals, the event was also a red rag to those who protect conservative Islamic values with an iron fist. Inter Services Intelligence and the bomb squad were standing by to keep out haute couture’s uninvited guests."

Eh? Ever been to a party in Pakistan, Ms. Bowers? Or Nargis' dance-theatre? Or to see a Pushto film? Ever picked up a copy of GT? Mostly, if the ISI is there, it's to enjoy itself.

ISI Chic?

Ms. Bowers also, incredibly, inserts the following bit in her tribute to the changing Pakistan:

"...even Pakistani TV crews happily meet gleaming and unveiled faces."

Whoa! Since when did TV crews (TV crews, for God's sake!) EVER refuse to meet "gleaming and unveiled faces"? I mean, have you even seen Pakistani channels, Ms. Bowers? And no, Haq TV does not count. We don't even know if it's a Pakistani channel, since we can't see their faces.

But how can one blame just Mary Bowers and The Times, when she has such a treasure-trove of our own people to apparently provide whacked out quotes. (I add the word 'apparently' here only because with a reporter with such a penchant for checking her facts, who can trust her memory or jotting skills?) For instance, here's "freelance fashion writer" Aamna Isani leading her up the garden path:

“We have seen the fashion world in Pakistan evolve in recent years,” said Aamna Isani, a freelance fashion writer. “Ten years ago we weren’t allowed to say the word 'fashion’. We had to go for a ‘cultural event’ with clothes.”

Ten years ago was the year 2000. You weren't allowed to use the word 'fashion' Ms Isani??? Which paper were you freelancing for exactly? Takbeer?

For Roundups on "Cultural Events With Clothes"

Here's Ms. Isani again talking about the elitism of Pakistan's fashion shows:

“I think we’ll really evolve when we have women on the catwalk with purdah too,” she says. “It’s an irony that we’re OK with navels and arms now, but not with the veil. 80 per cent of women in Pakistan wear the veil and many want to. They’d want to even if they had the option. They are pushing us away and we are pushing them away.”

Leave aside the fact that Ms Isani seems to be confused about the whole concept of the purdah / veil - yeah, women who do purdah are just itching to parade themselves on ramps, aren't they? - but where exactly has she got the "80 percent" figure from??? One can sympathise with Ms Isani's idea of inclusive liberalism, but I am more and more inclined to believe that she has spent most of her life inside the Takbeer offices.

Then you have Instep's editor making one of her usual cryptic comments:

“Now that women work like men they must dress like men,” said Muniba Kamal, fashion editor at the national daily The News. “I wouldn’t go burning our bras though. We need those.”

Don't burn that bra, baby

Burning bras? Didn't that kind of go out of fashion in the '70s? "We need those": What does this even mean? That Pakistani women are all well-endowed?

Of course, nothing would have come together for Ms. Bowers without this bit of sensationalism:

"“Half an hour before the show we were getting death threats and phone calls and all kind of blackmail,” says a model, Meesha Shafi, 28. “They had our names. It’s very scary." 

Er, yes, Meesha, who could possibly know your name or that of the other models? I mean, it's not like you guys are on the pages of Sunday every week, or on the cover of fashion magazines and billboards, in newspapers or acting in tv dramas and giving interviews on television, right? Or in a sleeveless tank-top on your band's website, right? But what I want to know is, what kind of blackmail was this really about? I have visions of someone threatening you, "if you don't walk the ramp for Umar Sayeed, we'll make sure you are forced to walk for Hourain!" Now that would be scary.

Loudest is not always smartest

Remember folks, at the end of the day, it's just clothes. The Taliban wear clothes too. And more of them. Let's keep things in perspective.


Anonymous said...

What appalling garbage. I know 'parachute journalists' regularly go away with and get away with some seriously blinkered stuff, but this takes the cake.

khabardrama said...

My dream project: send a Taliban supporter from Miranshah on a four-day sojourn to some western capital. Based on his trip, allow him to write about his experiences and hold forth with great authority on western culture, mores and civilisation. No fact-checking, context or editing allowed.
Let him, if he likes, focus on mosques in that city as the last refuge of those righteous souls traumatised by western decadence, hounded by the security forces only because they have seen the true light. Let him title his article 'Brave Muslims defy nudity and the CIA.'
Bet his naive, self-serving ramblings would be marginally more enlightening than the parade of stereotypes and preconceived prejudices that Mary Bowers has come up with.
Is it too much to ask western hacks of her ilk to kindly deposit their ideological burqas at the left luggage office next time they fly into Pakistan?

Aamna Haider Isani said...

Dear XYZ,
Quotes slightly misconstructed: it was 'we need to be comfortable with women in purdah and they need to be comfortable with us, that is when society will truly liberate. Right now it's a tug of war."
I agree I got the time frame wrong; it was Zia's time back in the eighties when we reported fashion as culture.

Anonymous said...

Agree that much of the Fashion v Taliban angle is overplayed to sell a story. I wrote the CSM piece, and did try to take a more nuanced line by focusing on artistic expression in times of strife, set to a backdrop of cancellations (what with the theatre bombings, cancelled gigs, Rafi Peer cancellation, Classic music fest cancelled, this is a valid angle I feel). Also highlighted the indigenous designs from Swat and Bahawalpur, the future of high-fashion in the export market, the Lahore-Karachi rivalry in fashion as in many other fields. Included the line 'Whether a fashion show aimed at Pakistan's elite can really undercut religious extremism is a matter of debate.' Showing some flesh is hardly going to stun the Taliban into submission, most readers of average intelligence would realise.
On another note, most of those interviewed would come up with the Fashion v Taliban angle without any prompting, and many designs and even the PR and scripting of the event were geared towards attracting just such attention, which goes to show how media savvy people have become.
Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...


Actually in defence of Ms Bowers, why is reporting death threats received by Overload's Meesha Shafi 'sensationalist' in any way? That's a fairly ill-informed comment. Is Cafe Pyala somehow unaware of the fact that religious vigilantes are presently making life hell for most performing artists in this country and depriving them of their livelihoods? Many artists DO get threats, bombings of venues ARE happening (I've reported on them from the spot myself), and gigs get cancelled all the time because of this. And then to go ahead and suggest it's Ms Shafi's own fault for wearing a 'sleeveless tank top' on the band's website takes the cake. How very progressive of you(!) If Cafe Pyala truly believes no such threats exist, might I suggest spending a little time actually reporting from the field as opposed to smug armchair analysis?


Anonymous said...

I thought Feeha's comment was the best:
“People in the West think we live on some barren land and ride camels. We never traveled on camels. We had horses."

Omar R Quraishi said...

anonymous if u wrote the csm piece then why hide behind the veil of anonymity?

anonymous -- meesha shafi's remarks that 'they had lists of us' and 'its scary' reminded me of a piece in the new york times some years ago where sheema kirmani was quoted as saying that she wasnt allowed to dance and that doing so was a choice between life and death -- i would have thought that if she wasnt allowed to dance it was probably because of reasons to do with taste and good sense than anything else -- and yes meesha shafi's comments seem exaggerated because they are exactly the kind of fodder that western journalists covering pakistan would love to include in their copy

sajjad said...

awesome and meticulous taking apart of the articles. making so much out of nothing.

Anonymous said...

Omar R Quraishi, what gives you the right to lord over what constitutes 'taste and good sense' when it comes to the country's top dancers? Much like the writer of this piece who used the old 'She was asking for it, Your Honour' line beloved by slimy defence attorneys the world over, you seem to believe that everyone ought to conform to your standards lest they incur the violent wrath of those who do not share those standards. If Maulana Abdul Aziz and his vice and virtue squads ever make a comeback, we can be fairly sure where Mr Quraishi would stand on the issue.

Omar R Quraishi said...

hahaha anonymous -- i wish people like u didnt hide behind cloaks -- you have to say something say it under you real name -- interesting that you bring up 'Maulana Abdul Aziz and his vice and virtue squads' -- i think if you looked up the editorial pages of the news during this time in 2006 when the maulana and his 'vice and virtue squads' were operating in full force in Islamabad you get a fair idea of what my 'stand on the issue' is -- and sir (madam), if ms sheema kirmani is one of the 'country's top dancers' then god help the dancing profession here

Omar R Quraishi said...

anonymous -- your reaction is as typical as it is annoying -- just because i am scoffing at meesha whatever's quotes doesnt mean that i support the taliban -- similarly if CP says that the lead singer of overload should have perhaps exhibited better sense when dressing up for her website he or she was saying only something that seems sensible -- i mean how many of us would go to sea view in a bikini -- and what would we tell a foreigner friend from overseas if they wanted to dress that way -- if we told them otherwise would we be then called taliban sympathisers -- the annoying thing is that people like meesha and some of the commentators are hopelessly out of tune with what happens in their country and they think they live in london or paris --

better still anonymous -- here is one of many such articles and edits i wrote when all this was happening -- this is from the news , july 22, 2007

XYZ said...

@khabardrama: Haha! That I would actually love to read!

@Aamna Haider Isani: Thanks for being a good sport and writing in. But you're wrong about fashion being reported as culture. Fashion was always written about as fashion in the press. Pick up copies of the Herald or She from the 80s and you will see what I mean (Generally, there was no special emphasis on fashion as a separate category in the daily papers, English or Urdu). What you are confusing with it is the official statement made to authorities to obtain No Objection Certificates (NOCs) during Zia's time (and for some time after). Yes, in that, oganizers used to claim 'cultural event' to bypass the red-tape and censors.

@Anon408 / Issam Ahmed: Yes, I agree that the CSM piece was far more sober and nuanced than its headline suggests. And you are right that organizers and fashionistas are probably equally to blame for whipping up sensationalist soundbites to pander to preconceived notions in the West. Point well taken.

XYZ said...

@Anon455 / Issam Ahmed: Ok now, you're losing it.

For one, I was holding Meesha responsible for the quote, not Bowers.You write: "why is reporting death threats received by Overload's Meesha Shafi 'sensationalist' in any way?" It is because 1) that is what Ms Bowers wanted to hear; her whole piece is premised on the supposition that fashion shows are being held under threat of death. It is not balanced out by any context. 2)We never learn of the credibility of the threats. Would any prank call make it a valid threat? Has any fashion show ever been bombed in Pakistan? Has any model ever been killed for walking the ramp? For example, when people make hoax calls to airports about bomb threats, does the reporter immediately conclude that the flights are definitely going to be bombed? That all flights are under threat? I am not arguing that such calls don't need to be taken seriously, only that proclaiming them to the global media is done for particular reasons that have nothing to do with taking them seriously.

You write: "Is Cafe Pyala somehow unaware of the fact that religious vigilantes are presently making life hell for most performing artists in this country and depriving them of their livelihoods?" No. What we are aware of is that the general security situation, where there is a possibility of a terrorist act occurring in a crowded public place, has scared performers. (And here I am leaving out the FATA regions or parts of the NWFP where such threats have been specific.) This of course makes it easier for people who have some other axe to grind to scare people further by making a couple of prank calls. It is instructive to note that the couple of bombings that have taken place in Lahore (at the World Performing Arts Festival and outside cinemas, all designed to scare more than cause damage) were not directed against particular performers, nor were they preceded by any calls against specific performers.

You then write: "And then to go ahead and suggest it's Ms Shafi's own fault for wearing a 'sleeveless tank top' on the band's website takes the cake. How very progressive of you(!)"
All I can say to you is that I hope you report better than you read and comprehend. The point I was making was 1) about people knowing Meesha's and other models' names and 2) about how someone who feels comfortable posing in a sleeveless tank top on a Pakistani website should pretend feeling victimized about walking the ramp in bridal joras to a clueless foreigner. My point had nothing to do with blaming Meesha for wearing her tank top. She has absolute right to wear whatever she wants.

You conclude: "might I suggest spending a little time actually reporting from the field as opposed to smug armchair analysis"
Hahahaha! My dear Issam Ahmed, I have no idea how long you have been in journalism. But I can assure you of one thing: most of the writers (incl myself) on this blog have spent far more time in the field than you possibly could have. And that's not just the field occupied by fashion runways.

XYZ said...

@Anon405: "Much like the writer of this piece who used the old 'She was asking for it, Your Honour' line beloved by slimy defence attorneys the world over..."

Yet another idiot taking the comments in a direction they were never meant to go in to suit his/her argument.

@Omar R Qureshi: I did not mean to imply anything about Meesha's choice of clothes. Please read my explanation above to Issam. I may not wear a bikini to Seaview but if someone wants to, I think they should have the full right to do so. Yes, they might get leered at but that is the problem of the people leering, not of the person wearing whatever. They may be "out of tune" with societal norms but I really don't think you should be judging them on that basis.

Omar R Quraishi said...

xyz -- i think you misconstrued what i was saying -- the issue is not meesha's attire but rather the threat posed to those took part in the exhibitions as if fashion shows have never been held in lahore -- as for her attire, no one is judging but wearing a bikini to seaview may be seen as a bad choice of attire and would have nothing to do with morality, or lack thereof -- in any case my comment was not intended as a response to what you had said

Omar R Quraishi said...

a far better story on the week

Anonymous said...

XYZ, I want to marry you.

Anonymous said...

XYZ: Perhaps I wrote my 2nd post in haste and misconstrued the point you were making about Meesha Shafi.

Nadir Hassan said...

@Omar R Quraishi: I am in awe of Salman Masood for getting Feeha Jamshed to say, "“People in the West think we live on some barren land and ride camels. We never traveled on camels. We had horses."

Omar R Quraishi said...


Ahsan said...

Wow, since when did the comments on CP get so entertaining? I should read them more often.

Anonymous said...

Well, Feeha. I don't know where your fancy lot came from but my forefathers had to constantly deal with bloody camels in what is now Pakistan. Uncomfortable, slow and moody, the creatures were our only form of public transport. Horses? You lucky, elitist so and so!

Fifi Haroon said...

It surprises me when anyone is surprised by the kind of foreign media coverage the two Pakistan fashion weeks have received, specially when many of the so called "reviews" originate from war correspondents on a day's sabbatical. And let's be honest, from the foreign media's point of view, what other story is there to tell? Why would any foreign publication really be interested in spotlighting little known (in a global context) Pakistani designers if there wasn't another (admittedly stereotypical) angle to attract their readership? And it's not just the foreign Press - local fashion organizers and commentators have been milking the same story to death to get some editorial space.

But there is a happy ending to all this - it wont last. The Foreign Press will lose interest and somewhere along the line our designers will (or should) realise that Fashion Weeks are not merely back-patting, self-congratulatory events. And amusing though it may be to watch, they are also not a battleground for the Lahore and Karachi councils to assert their rivalries.

Fashion week is about selling clothes to international buyers on a result-oriented basis and in getting media recognition in industry related fashion pages - and if you aren't managing that you aren't doing jackshit. It's not rocket science guys - find ways to approach, cultivate and build relationships with foreign buyers instead of being happy with one-off (and misninformed) writeups. The whole anti-Taliban story may get you Press, but it wont get you the right Press - or indeed buyers. In fact, it will probably scare them off. If you want to be taken seriously as an industry, start behaving like one.

Omar R Quraishi said...

well said fifi -- now why doesnt someone like u write in images or the news on sunday? or even the op-ed pages of these newspapers?

Meesha said...

You're holding me responsible for a quote that was 1)misquoted Ms. Bowers. 2) you yourself are guilty of sensationalism by over reacting and over analyzing without having any way of verifying what I said and in what context. I understand that you have a blog to write, but this one is very typically a desperate attempt at trying to come up with something to say.
My quote was answer to a question about last year's turmoil, when the security situation was at its worst. We did a charity fashion show to raise money for the IDPs and did in fact get threatened. I believe it alarms the extremists also, when they see the artists, talent and more moderate members of the population showing solidarity and defiance in the face of bomb threats, explosions and various other restrictions that they are presenting. My 'quote' does not say that we were shocked and wondered endlessly how they knew our names. I said it was scary, I did not say it was unbelievable. You sir, are the one who has preconceived notions and are stereotyping us, just because models are beautiful does not mean they are stupid.
Yes, bomb threats might be exactly what the western journalists want to hear, but I'm not going to lie and be in denial just because you think we shouldn't say what they want to hear. If bomb threats are a part of our lives right now, denying it is not presenting a very mature image of us. But hey, from what you have been saying, I gather maturity isn't one of your personality traits. Seems to me like you want to be bitter for the sake of how it sounds. Bad journalism.
No, no model has been killed for walking the ramp, and no fashion show has been bombed, but the explosion at the Rafi Peer Festival was exactly 24 hours after my band was on stage, and since then, for the first time in years, it has been cancelled two years in a row. For the record, I wore a tank top to that performance too. I bet you're going to tell me now that that was why the festival came under attack. Grow up!!! This is the reality that the talent of your country is facing right now, security issues, threats, events and shows being cancelled, no funding/sponsors and the kind of crap that you give us for talking about it.
At the age of 5, I saw my grandfather sentenced to solitary confinement for eleven months writing about what he saw going on
around him. On the 23rd of next month he is receiving the Pride of Performance for his contribution to the journalism of this country. If he had sugar coated his words like you are blaming me of not doing, he would be forgotten today, at the age of 86.
At the age of eleven, I saw my mother gather all her contemporaries ( TV artists) in a strike against PTV after they issued a policy for all female artists to cover their heads no matter what the script, no matter what the role. When somebody asks me about the circumstances we have been working in, I will tell them the truth. The only thing I regret is that Ms. Bower failed to mention that I was answering a question about last year, not the recent fashion week in Lahore. Might I add, it is sad that everyone being threatened was doing the show for charity. A good will project to which we committed our time and collective efforts. Bet you didn't write about that in your blog. Not juicy enough eh? And FYI, Mr. XYZ, I know who you are.

Omar R Quraishi said...

"...just because models are beautiful does not mean they are stupid..."

wow that's a gem of a quote again, meesha

and btw meesha we all live in pakistan and in fact i am pretty sure that those who are behind this blog are either journalists or have been journalists -- so i think they are quite familiar with life in pakistan

mr/ms xyz -- u better be careful now -- meesha shafi (hope i got that right) knows "who you are" -- and hey who knows you may be on her list now

'it is scary'


Umair Javed said...

Hahahaha....I just really love it when the liberals consider themselves to be part of the 'moderate portion' of the population. We're not moderate and frankly we're too small to be even called a portion...but more importantly, the fashion vs taliban dichotomy is an absurdity. Ask any average Pakistani and they'll touch their ears and say 'astaghfirullah' at the 'fashion' on display (regardless of whether they're paying lip-service to their conscience or they actually believe in its immorality).

So does that mean they're all Talibans? or does that mean that the people who pose this dichotomy in the first place (the journalists as well as artists who shoot their mouths) are slightly deluded? I think what needs to be taken into perspective is that while performing artists are under threat, there is a situation of danger across the country (something that XYZ has already mentioned)....Im pretty sure there was no fashion show going on in the police station in Mingora and neither was there one in Moon Market Lahore or the Cloth Market in Peshawar....As reformist/progressive individuals we need to step out of this siege mentality and stop construing every public display of religiosity as a step towards Talibanization or more so as a threat towards the liberals in Pakistan. Kudos to XYZ and Cafe Pyala for a brilliant post...keep it up people!!

Anonymous said...

Meesha, very well said, you've given an excellent first hand account of how threats to musicians, artists, models and other performers are all very real and not concocted in the minds of quote-hungry journos.



From the above comments XYZ appears to be female (She said: "I may not wear a bikini to Sea View").

Anonymous said...

@IA: stop being so judgemental! What's wrong with a man wearing a bikini at Seaview?

Anonymous said...

I think this is a reasonable critique of Western media bias, but it is boring and it misses the point. There is no doubt that the Western media is invested in selling a story that puts freedom and liberalism up against tyranny and Islam. In this case, Pakistani fashion week became the occasion to tell this story. But, the truth is, that other than this story, there really isn't any other reason for the international media to cover Pakistani fashion week. I mean, how often does the New York Times or Time magazine cover the fashion week in Nigeria or Sierre Leone or Lithuania or Venezuela? The only reason that a ridiculous event like Pakistan fashion week would get any coverage in the Western press is because of the perceived dangers emanating from the Muslim world and because they can read in to it a struggle against Islamic tyranny. The other point that needs to be made is that our media people, like the model "Meesha" or whoever, take advantage of this scenario. I mean, it goes without saying that people like that could not cut it in any really competitive industry and the fact that people like that are used as representatives of anything is pretty shocking. How many times have you heard a media personality say that everyone should support local music, fashion, movies etc. because it is our duty to project a "softer" image of Pakistan throughout the world? This nationalistic sentiment, as opposed to quality, is what keeps this entire entertainment industry afloat. But, seriously, are we really going to win over the West, convince them that we are truly "modern," by parading our women in front of the world? Isn't it time that we stopped thinking the solution to all our problems is cultural mimicry and demonstrated that we are actually capable of contributing something substantial to the world? Pakistan is the country most closely associated with Muhammad Iqbal, the greatest Muslim mind of the 20th century, with the artistic genius of Saddequain, with the critical gaze of Faiz. Can we please stop using the word "Art" and "Creativity" for things like advertisements and fashion week. We've clearly set our eyes too low for anyone to really respect us.

MSS said...

Dear Ms. Shafi,

It is most kind of you to give pyala your side of the story. If i understand it correctly, it goes something like this:

1) You were misquoted/your quote was taken out of context.
2) It is Cafe Pyala's harmless cracks and not the writer who initially misquoted you that is worthy of your ire for peddling 'sensationalism, over reacting, over analyzing' etc.
3) All models are beautiful. All beautiful people are not stupid.
4) Yes Western journalists are more interested in hearing about how awful/risky it is to do as you wish in Pakistan than about hearing how privileged, blessed you are for being able to do as you wish. Feeding into their stereotypes is a kind of maturity. XYZ's questioning your naivete in doing so is a sign of immaturity. XYZ is not only immature XYZ is bitter. XYZ is, in fact, Afridi.
5) You wore a tank top to the Rafi Peer theatre festival two years ago.
6) The pyala writer in question should grow up for gently mocking the way every big fashion event is heralded as the second coming of Christ.
7) Your grandfather and mother had a social conscience, and you do too. That is why you do charity fashion shows. Pyala should be ashamed of itself for not focussing enough on the way charity fashion shows are reversing global warming.
8) You know who XYZ is. But your implied threat to rid him/her violently of their tanktop of anonymity is in no way as abhorrent as the 'blackmail' you were on the receiving end of.

I can only assume your letter to the editor of the publication in which you were misquoted, the Christian Science Monitor - and you must of course have written one- was similarly impassioned, articulate and, um, coherent.

The point, Ms. Shafi, is that you are well within your rights to object to being misquoted, but your reaction above is fairly OTT. We are probably all on the same side of the line, so let's save our righteous indignation for something that actually matters, like why it is so darn hard to get clove cigarettes in pakistan.

Bolshevik said...


Stop bullying people, woh bhi bechaarey anonymous waaley! :-D

Omar R Quraishi said...

mss and bolshevik both


Anonymous said...

What would a real article about Pakistan's fashion week look like? Since I couldn't find one, I decided to write it myself. Not surprisingly, it reads more like satire than news.

“Mediocrity Walks Triumphant on Pakistan's Fashion Runways"

Pakistan's small, self-absorbed elite gathered earlier today to celebrate their own liberal selves and to express their complete disdain for the nation's broader cultural and religious values. Nothing short of a status bloodbath was on display. In a country where disease, child mortality, and abject poverty run rampant, Pakistan's elite came together to watch scantily clad models advertise overpriced outfits ranging anywhere from a few thousand to hundreds of thousands of rupees. Although made by underappreciated and underpaid craftsmen, the profits generated from sales of these outfits will be siphoned by a few mediocre "designers" whose lifestyles are so extravagant that they have to be subsidized by their rich families. In recent years, Pakistan has witnessed the rise of a fashion industry which caters to a small elite segment of the population that profited tremendously from the decade long dictatorship of General Pervez Musharraf. While the outside observer easily recognizes how the fashion show reflects widespread exploitation and gross injustice, the liberal elites that participate in the fashion show believe that it represents a direct challenge to radical Islamic movements like the Tehreek-i-Taliban. When asked about the significance of the fashion show, the model/actress/singer Mindy said, “Pakistan is a progressive society. We want the world to know that we are not like the Taliban. We don’t understand why the Taliban want to stop girls from being fashionable or going to school. I mean, models should be both beautiful and smart!” Although financed by the same dictatorship that enabled these liberal elites to enrich themselves, creating the very conditions for the rise of the fashion industry, Islamic movements like the Tehreek-i-Taliban are hostile to the liberal, pro-Western values expressed at such events and especially to the excess materialism, immodest attire, and illegitimate mixing of the sexes. (continued on page 2).

Anonymous said...

(continued from page 1) This event represents nothing new in Pakistan-- liberal elites have always participated in events in which they perform their superior status-- but in the past such events were held inside their inordinately large homes and away from the gaze of the poor and disenfranchised. Today, these same events are broadcast on private television stations and beamed directly into the homes of people who cannot afford a bag of rice let alone the jewelry and clothing on display at this event. The increasingly public nature of “fashion” is bound to offend most of the poor but in particular the religiously minded, who, unlike liberal elites, are desperately trying to balance the demands of their religion with the demands of a modern capitalist economy bent on impoverishing them. The religious minded are not only watching their incomes decline in the midst of dramatic inflation, they are also witnessing a decline in their ability to uphold their religious values in an increasingly media driven, globalized world in which unwanted Western cultural values are threatening the very heart of their religion. While the religious minded feel that their family structures, already deeply strained by an exploitative economic system, are being further corroded by permissive Western values, liberal elites insist that being scantily clad is one and the same as being enlightened and free. The Pakistani liberal elite understand Pakistan's fashion week to be a clear sign of progress and resistance against backward religious sentiments. As the designer/model/actor Jonny said, “ We are not going to stand idly by while the Taliban take away what’s most valuable in life. They want to turn back the hands of time and we want to move forward.” In the minds of the liberal elite, the fashion show represents a struggle for freedom against backwardness and tyranny. To quote Jonny once again, “We have a right to be stylish and it is a right we will defend at all costs!” The costs of course are very high as Pakistan descends into a violent confrontation between those who claim to be defending Islam and those that insist upon their right to be free and fashionable.

Bolshevik said...

Yaar Satirical Anon, you started off brilliantly, but towards the end, you descended into an Imran Khan-esque rant. Kia yaar! Dil torr dya. :-(

I agree with you re the overt hypocrisy of those who portray such events as "battlefields against the Taliban" and "harbingers of economic progress," etc. Having said that, what one wears (or doesn't wear) is one's personal choice. The culture that one wants to follow, or not follow, is also an individual's personal choice. You can't berate women for being "scantily clad" -- if that is what they feel comfortable wearing, then that is what they have the right to wear. A woman should have the right to not be objectified even if she walks naked down the street -- her body is HERS to do with and use as she pleases. No one has the right to impose laws on it.

Secondly, the impoverished "masses" don't really give a crap about religion -- they're too busy trying to make ends meet. It is only the middle class which has the thekedaari over religion and "morality", while the owners of capital use religion to their own ends. Bechaarey mazdoor aur haari k paas time nahi hai mullah / padri / brahman / whatever ki bakwaas sunney k liyay.

Omar R Quraishi said...

cafe pyala yyar tu chhaa gya -- wah wah -- cnn par bhee

Sadia said...

Bare midriffs are not a threat to Taliban! And neither is wearing hijab (by an informed decision) suppression of women. Let fashion be fashion! Do not turn this into a battlefield.
Curbing extremism requires more serious efforts such as revision in curriculum, keeping checks on the religious seminaries and initiating progressive dialogues.

Anonymous said...

You guys ought to read this

Timothy said...

An American's response to Ms Bower:

“It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.” Abraham Lincoln

“Not everybody voted Republican (as it turned out in 2000, the electoral majority didn’t)” Your ignorance of the American electoral system is telling. BTW, no, we are not a Parliamentary form of government. We are a federal republic. Our sympathies to George III. Had President Bush not received the requisite electoral votes he would not have been confirmed by our Senate as the winner of the election. To be fair, I presume you meant the “popular vote” which in this unique circumstance (although historically not the first time) did not comport with the Electoral College vote.

Words mean things. Please be concise and succinct, less you alienate more would be readers, and relegate your future to the nascent assignments you lamented in New York. I know, it’s tough to be you.

“for each surgically enhanced smile there is certainly a tramp living among the rats off Hollywood Boulevard.” Careful with this slam at America, as poverty is not unique to us, and as I am told, one can still find many poor lingering around the back alleys of London’s tonier neighborhoods, and the envirions of Windsor, no doubt.

“Along with other coalition forces, we are fighting an unwinnable[sic] war against an enemy we don’t understand.” Your blanket condemnation of your “readers’, editors’ and journalists’ prejudices in the UK” due to the understandable hurt and anger over British losses, for which we all sincerely feel sympathy, betrays your own “journalistic objectivity” for that of your own prejudice.

I would politely suggest you spend a little less time lamenting your own condition and a bit more of your well paid and valuable time reporting the facts of the condition of the region upon which, as you lament, you “parachute” in to report upon.

Many of we “ugly Americans” spend every day discussing these issues around the world with every culture imaginable, but to read your blog you’d think the world was ending. Yes, there are many problems and horrible things happening in the world.

But there is one constant among all these cultures and people I have found. That is the constant of hope.

In your profession I suggest you look back to the best war time journalists of WWII like Edward R. Murrow and many British journalists. When they finished giving the public the FACTS rather than lamenting the poor conditions they had to suffer to bring those reports, they most often concluded their reports with a story of hope. Hope for the troops, hope for those suffering victims of war, hope for the folks back home.

It sounds like your blogger xyz was looking for hope. What you gave him/her was a good dose of stereotypical modern western liberal media cynicism. A self fulfilling affirmation of all your worst impressions of your own culture, and that of virtually everyone else.

Time to get over yourself and get on with your job.

Milosevic said...

I know how is painful for one nation to be constantly reminded to the dark side of its own past and present. My country has gone through it.

Unfortunately, Pakistanis will have to face with that even on such events as Fashion Week.

No one foreign journalist can write relaxing about the beautiful fashion models without look back at the tragedies that is happening every day in your country.

I do not think that British journalist did anything bad. On the contrary. She wrote a good article. Pakistani blogger is unrealistic and biased. First of all, he or she has no courage to sign the full name. And then there is no courage to call their own people and artists to take advantage of such events in order to change bad things. Pakistani blogger is also false patriot.

The fact that the Pakistani government openly supports the Taliban casts a shadow over all the other nice things in your home country. Just like in my country, Serbia, where the war criminal, has been protected by the years from the official governments. In the name of false patriotism. Because of it all the beauties of Serbia and all the valuable and respectable people stayed less important to the world. It took time and years to change things for the better.

For one foreign journalist it is really impossible to enjoy the beautiful dresses in Pakistan knowing that only a few hundred meters there was bloodshed and only a few dozen kilometers Taliban making plans for a new slaughter.

If Pakistani people want to be accepted widely as a creative nation without mixing with political past, before all, Pakistanis must solved with themselves what they want and what they do not want.

Or they will change the government and policy that it returns them in the dark past or they will remain the servants of group of illiterate terrorists who, hidden in the Pakistan hills control the entire Pakistan nation.

And even their Fashion Week.

MS said...

i have to clarify this:

""A call to prayer echoed over the red carpet. "" <-- WTF?!

there was NO call to prayer... that was the NATIONAL ANTHEM!!


Rizwan said...

Café Pyala posted: "Pakistan’s first Government-endorsed fashion week finished yesterday. There is hope that with it will disappear decades of the government repression that had previously forced the scene underground."

I completely agree with Café Pyala… what underground scene? As of 2010, there are 6 fashion weeks and 4 other group-designer shows slated to be held. In from 2004-2009 there have been regular group designer shows which includes the Carnival de Couture that have gotten a lot of publicity. I don’t see how this makes the “scene” “underground”!!!

Café Pyala posted: "A triumph for young liberals, the event was also a red rag to those who protect conservative Islamic values with an iron fist. Inter Services Intelligence and the bomb squad were standing by to keep out haute couture’s uninvited guests."

I didn’t see them. As far as I know, there was a lot of private security + the country club’s own personnel.

Café Pyala posted: "...even Pakistani TV crews happily meet gleaming and unveiled faces."

But they always do. Ever heard of Fashion TV (ARY) or Style 360 (Hum TV network) or any of the other entertainment channels out there?!

Café Pyala posted: “We have seen the fashion world in Pakistan evolve in recent years,” said Aamna Isani, a freelance fashion writer. “Ten years ago we weren’t allowed to say the word 'fashion’. We had to go for a ‘cultural event’ with clothes.”

Errr… right. So from 1990 – 2000 when a certain publication published an article on A (mind you) “DECADE” of fashion… apparently… that article was full of nothing if we weren’t allowed to use the word ‘fashion’ 10 years ago. And oh, all of the foreign/local shows, exhibits, fashion school grads (PIFD, AIFD, HSY, Nomi Ansari, Kamiar Rokni, Sonya Battla, Nina Lotia…) couldn’t have launched their careers and done their shows, now could they?

Café Pyala posted: ““Now that women work like men they must dress like men,” said Muniba Kamal, fashion editor at the national daily The News. “I wouldn’t go burning our bras though. We need those.””

I’m assuming she’s referring to the dhotis that were shown on the ramp. It can’t possibly be pants since women in Pakistan have been wearing them… well, ever since the country came into being actually.

Café Pyala posted: "“Half an hour before the show we were getting death threats and phone calls and all kind of blackmail,” says a model, Meesha Shafi, 28. “They had our names. It’s very scary."

My response: Bull shit.

Café Pyala posted: "if you don't walk the ramp for Umar Sayeed, we'll make sure you are forced to walk for Hourain!"

Oh that IS scary! Lol!