The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Jamali growls at catwalk
- Pakistan Prime Minister seeks end to ‘vulgar’ fashion shows

Islamabad, Nov. 15: The President parades his sherwanis and suits at summits. But his Prime Minister wants to stop models doing the same on catwalks.

Pakistan Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali has taken exception to fashion shows which, he feels, are “not in consonance with Islam”, a leading English daily has reported.

Fashion shows have been regular features in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi for the past two years, but the immediate provocation was two such parades. One was at a five-star hotel in Islamabad and the other in Lahore Fort on the 14th night of the holy month of Shaba’an, which is spent offering special prayers.

If the Prime Minister is outraged, part of the blame — if it can be called that — lies with his leader. Pervez Musharraf’s liberal-looking dispensation has emboldened designers like Maheen, Shaiyanne Malik, Ejaz Aslam, Tanveer Jamal and Junaid Jamshed to strut their multicultural stuff on catwalks.

The News quoted officials as saying that the interior ministry, through a letter stamped “immediate” has, on the “direct order of the Prime Minister”, asked authorities to restrict hotels and organisers from holding “vulgar fashion shows, which are not reflective of Islamic values and culture”.

The letter, sent to the chief commissioner of Islamabad as well as home secretaries in all the provinces, called for necessary action and asked them to send compliance reports at the earliest.

But five-star hotels in Islamabad said they have not been sent a directive. “No, we haven’t received anything, we have also discovered through newspapers,” said Asad Shah, the public relations officer at the Marriott hotel.

Malik said her “dream” was to design “elegant dresses”. It has now turned into a “craze and I always try to come out with different but inexpensive designs”.

Different is what Musharraf tried to be at every stage of his trip to India in July 2001. His information minister vouched for it, though the context was more serious — the failed Agra summit.

“As I know the facts, President Musharraf went to his room only to change as both countries had agreed to the joint declaration.… When he came back, the Indian mood had changed,” Sheikh Rasheed said in New Delhi earlier this week.

“Musharraf,” he added, “had gone to change so that he looked good in the photographs.”

The image-conscious President would agree with Jamshed, who told the state-run Pakistan Television in an interview: “I think dress designing and publicity of new dresses and fashion is not a bad thing.”

Malik seconded him. “These designs get popular only after they are displayed in fashion shows and other events especially organised for the purpose,” she stressed.

However, Jamshed had a word of caution. The young pop singer, who runs his own dress shop in Karachi, said such events “should not exceed prescribed limits of decency and the parameters laid down by Islam”.

The trouble is the interior ministry’s letter leaves little room for manoeuvre. “Such activities are not reflective of our culture and heritage and must not therefore be encouraged,” the directive said.

So the controversy brews. But even if Jamali fails to impose his code on such “vulgar” parades, his leader has learnt the hard way that any time is not dress-up time.

“Next time,” as Rasheed said, “I think no Pakistani ruler will dare to change his clothes when such an important issue is taking place.”

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