There are men who sport a moustache and men who don’t. For those who do, it is a show of pride, pomp and manliness but would you believe that the man who sports the longest and fanciest moustache with panache in Pakistan had a close shave with death and all because of his upper lip plumage?
Amir Ahmad Khan Afridi who proudly sports a 40” moustache (20” on each side) lived in the Khyber Agency since his childhood. He had to uproot himself when his moustache got him into serious trouble some five years ago when a local militant group, the Lashkar-e-Islam, demanded Rs50,000 extortion money from him, disapproving of his moustache on what they claimed were religious grounds. His refusal brought four gunmen to his door who took him away and imprisoned him for a month in a cave. He was released only when he agreed to cut it off. “I had no other option and if I didn’t cut it, I would have been killed,” he said.
Saved by a whisker, he moved to Peshawar, where he grew his moustache back, only to be harassed by phone calls this time, threatening to slit his throat. He decided to leave Khyber Pakhtunkhwa altogether and moved to Faisalabad but minus his wife and five children. “I would visit them frequently because I missed them,” the Afridi reminisced.
“Presently, I am spending more time with my family in Peshawar, while my wife keeps telling me to get rid of the moustache so we could live without any fear,” says Afridi.
Afridi was inspired by Malik Amir Mohammad Khan Awan (also known as the Nawab of Kalabagh), who he considers somewhat his namesake. “I believe the Nawab of Kalabagh once said that he liked people with moustaches and that made an impression on me.”
Afridi who runs a garments, watches and electronics business, does not smoke or indulge in naswaar. “I am not fond of food or drink, my moustache is my passion, my life and my identity. When people meet me, they are scared just to shake hands with me”. Once they see his friendly demeanour, people gather around him and want to take pictures with him. “I get a lot of respect and attention from people and what’s wrong with that?” he chuckles.
Afridi has been growing the monstrous moustache since 1992. Since the past 21 years, Afridi diligently follows a special care regime to pamper his moustache. He massages secret formula oils for growth and conditioning but prefers using coconut oil the most. Every morning he painstakingly washes out the coconut oil applied at night and then combs his moustache out, ready to be twirled to perfection, like wings disregarding gravity.
His care-kit includes a hair dryer, a collection of soap bars, shampoos, local and imported hair oils, hand mirrors, towels, combs and brushes. “I spend about half an hour on my moustache every day and looking after it costs me around Rs15,000 every month.”
He has been awarded in local competitions and is well-known in Peshawar. But he is disappointed that he has received no recognition, encouragement or support from the government. “I would love to go to Dubai and Saudi Arabia to represent Pakistan and participate in competitions but there is no support whatsoever from the government.”