And even though, the ever-expanding milieu of this new youth culture had also started to adopt contemporary Western fashion, it was yet to be fully impacted by the 'counter-culture' of the hippies making the rounds in the United States and Europe at the time.
That started to change in 1970 – and fast. Though the beginnings of the hippie phenomenon in the West can be placed in San Francisco in 1966, middle-class Pakistan’s knowledge of the phenomenon (till about early 1968) was at best superficial.
But when Pakistan became an intermediate destination of the famous 'Hippie Trail' – an overland route that thousands of travelling hippies (from Europe and the United States) started to take on their journeys towards India and Nepal – cities like Peshawar, Swat, Rawalpindi, Lahore and Karachi in Pakistan became important hippie destinations.
After entering Iran (from Turkey), the Trail curved into Afghanistan, from where the hippies entered Pakistan (through the Khyber Pass in the KPK province). They travelled down to Rawalpindi and then to Lahore from where they entered India (by bus).
Many hippies also travelled all the way to Karachi to visit the city's sprawling beaches.
Another popular destination for these traveling hippies in Pakistan was the various large Sufi shrines in Lahore and Karachi.
Here they mingled with the shrines’ many malangs and fakirs.
About the same time, middle-class Pakistani youth had also started to frequent shrines more often than before, especially on Thursday nights where (till even today) a number of shrines hold nights dedicated to the traditional sub-continental Sufi devotional music, called the ‘Qawwali.’
It was at the shrines of Lahore, the beaches of Karachi, and at the bus stands of Peshawar and Rawalpindi, where most Pakistanis came into direct contact with the passing hippies.
And as portrayed by the flamboyant (and flowery) chic attire of TV personality, Zia Mohyeddin, on 1970’s famous PTV show, The Zia Mohyeddin Show, the ‘radical chic’ and ‘hippie attire’ developing in the West started to also catch the fancy of young urban middle-class Pakistanis.
By the early 1970s, young men’s hair that had remained somewhat short till even the late 1960s, started to grow longer (along with thick sideburns); and women’s kameez’ (shirts), grew shorter in length – all inspired by famous Hollywood films of the time, and Pakistani film artistes such as Waheed Murad and Shabnam; and also by some famous Indian film stars (particularly Rajesh Khanna and Mumtaz) whose films young Pakistanis watched by driving into Kabul (from North Pakistan).
Elation and Agony
Sure of triggering a political and cultural revolution in Pakistan, young West and East Pakistanis joined a large number of their countrymen as they turned out to vote in the country’s first ‘real elections’ in 1970.
These elections, though held under a military dictatorship, are still hailed by a majority of Pakistani political commentators to be the most free and fair held in the country.
The results were stunning. Bhutto’s PPP (in West Pakistan) and Mujib’s Awami League (in East Pakistan), almost completely eclipsed the conservative old guard of Pakistani politics.
The results of the election were certainly a shock to the military regime of Yahya Khan and the Islamic parties.
With around 162 seats in the National Assembly (out of a total 300), Mujib’s Awami League should have been invited to form Pakistan’s first ever popularly elected government. But since Mujib and his party were squarely made up of Bengali nationalists, Yayah (in unison with Bhutto) hesitated.
Next in line to form the government was Bhutto’s PPP that had won 81 seats. What happened next is a thorny and controversial issue in the country’s political history.
Some commentators have blamed Yahya for pitching Bhutto’s ego against that of Mujaib’s, while others accuse Bhutto of manipulating Yahya into keeping Mujib out in the cold.
Pakistanis have yet to decide upon a convincing closure on the issue.
A clear fissure appeared on the issue between youth in West and East Pakistan even though they had been on the same page during the protest movement against the Ayub dictatorship in 1968-69.
Charged by the election results and frustrated by West Pakistan’s apparent reluctance to hand over power to the Bengali dominated majority in the Parliament, Bengali nationalist groups started to violently agitate against the military regime of Yahya Khan.
They had also accused the military of using intimidating tactics that, by 1971, were said to have become specifically brutal involving rape, torture and murder.