Siyasat and style: The story behind Imran's kurta and Altaf Bhai's aviators

Published May 26, 2015
From the suave IK to the youthful Sherry, all the way to the entertaining Altaf, Pakistan's got all kinds of fashionistas in the politicial arena.
From the suave IK to the youthful Sherry, all the way to the entertaining Altaf, Pakistan's got all kinds of fashionistas in the politicial arena.

In Pakistani politics, clothes really do make the man — and woman.

If you're a Pakistani politician, your choice of either an ajrak, a blazer, a waistcoat or a three-piece lawn suit says a lot about you. Depending on your look, one can pretty accurately guess which political party you've pledged your allegiance to, as over the years, each political party's look has distilled itself into something of a dress code, subtle yet distinct.

In case you haven't noticed this, we'll break it down for you: Here's a list of Pakistani politician's categorised by their siyasi style.


PTI

Signature style: Urban desi, ethnic flavour optional

Best dressed: Imran Khan

PTI's style is epitomised by its leader, the evergreen Imran Khan. Back when he was a hot cricketer and an even hotter international ladies man, he was conventionally dapper, often seen in a smart blazer or slim suit, that is, except for moments when he decided to ditch his uppers entirely.

When he started taking an interest in politics, however, his style took a U-turn. He now favours white shalwar kameez worn with a waistcoat or blazer, an east-meets-west compromise that often leaves him looking rather... rumpled.

But his party is undeterred by this and has followed him blindly into his newly desi-fied look, donning kurtas of any colour with a PTI shade scarf-cum-dupatta, at times replaced with ajrak depending on audience demographics.

Lucky for Immy K, he manages to pull off even odd combos gracefully.
Lucky for Immy K, he manages to pull off even odd combos gracefully.

PTI's leading ladies aren't far behind, as they've also adopted a devil-may-care attitude when it comes to dressing up. They're most often seen in simple shalwar kameez and lawn joras. Even the most glamorous PTI woman, Reham Khan, has professed to wearing "whatever someone gets made for me." Her smart blazers have been replaced by loose lawn, dupatta draped elegantly over her head.

In with the new (L) out with the old (R). Reham's look has become more traditional after she became Mrs Khan.
In with the new (L) out with the old (R). Reham's look has become more traditional after she became Mrs Khan.

Special mention: The PTI supporter

A fashion force to be reckoned with, the PTI supporter masterfully mixes high fashion with street style to achieve a deliciously desi flavour. Known to sport hoodies and Imran Khan themed scarves or kurtas with aplomb, the PTI supporter wears their political opinion on their sleeve - literally!

IK supporters express their support through their clothing - Photo courtesy: fashioncentral.pk
IK supporters express their support through their clothing - Photo courtesy: fashioncentral.pk

Needs a makeover: Shah Mehmood Qureshi.

We're not saying SMQ doesn't look good; It's just that his buttoned up, slick self is at odds with his party's style current quotient. SMQ's suit and tie situation screams emotional baggage — he's clearly hanging on to his PPP past. It's time for him to ditch Savile Row and make a trip to Kurta Corner or Khaadi.

SMQ looks happiest in a suit, seen here (L) with Hillary Clinton during his tenure as foreign minister. When you put him in traditional garb (R) he gets grump-face.
SMQ looks happiest in a suit, seen here (L) with Hillary Clinton during his tenure as foreign minister. When you put him in traditional garb (R) he gets grump-face.

PPP

Signature style: Expensive. PPP pols are known to have a penchant for western wear of the high-end designer variety.

The men are usually clad in suits and ties and the women, restricted as they are by good old Pakistani culture that disapproves of women in pants, opt to let their accessories do the talking. You'll see PPP women carrying Birkin bags, wearing Chanel or Hermes scarves and rocking blinged out Bvlgari sunglasses.

The late ZA Bhutto set the stage for this walayat ravaiyat and knew how to rock a suit. And while Benazir Bhutto couldn't be described as fashion-forward (favouring frumpy jackets and poofy shoulder pads), her striking brows and commanding tones screamed glamour. She was, at the very least, consistent.

Sadly, ZA Bhutto's fashion sense (L) was not passed down generations
Sadly, ZA Bhutto's fashion sense (L) was not passed down generations

Best dressed: We have a tie — Hina Rabbani Khar and Sherry Rehman.

What can we say? Former foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar and Sherry Rehman are always perfectly turned out and they tow the party line when it comes to style. Remember when Khar caused a media blitz during her visit to India in 2011? Whole articles were dedicated to her Hermes bag and designer shades.

Hina Rabbani Khar during her trip to India (L) — and that Birkin.
Hina Rabbani Khar during her trip to India (L) — and that Birkin.

Former ambassador Sherry Rehman always looks put together and exudes elegance. She could go easy on the black eyeliner but hey, nobody's perfect!

Sherry Rehman in what we hope is a faux fur collar!
Sherry Rehman in what we hope is a faux fur collar!

Most improved: Asif Ali Zardari

In his younger days, party co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari looked decidedly greasy. The luxuriant moustache, the slicked back hair... in this case, more was too much more. His desi garb too was at odds with the party's vibe.

Zardari's made his fair share of mistakes in the past (extreme left and extreme right) but everyone should get a chance at redemption; Just look at that baby pink tie! (centre)
Zardari's made his fair share of mistakes in the past (extreme left and extreme right) but everyone should get a chance at redemption; Just look at that baby pink tie! (centre)

But we should let bygones be bygones. Asif Ali Zardari has cleaned himself up (sartorially, at least) and ever since he took command of PPP he's been presenting a polished image to the world. Even Sarah Palin was charmed, didn't you hear?

Special mention: Rehman Malik

This is a tough one. When it comes to Rehman Malik, it's hard to decide whether he's exceptionally spiffy or just trying too hard. His colour-coordinated ties and pocket squares win while his flamboyant hair clearly does not. So we figure a 'special mention' covers all bases?

As long as he's got that suit and tie...
As long as he's got that suit and tie...

Needs a makeover: Hasham Riaz

Usually spotted in a suit with an open collar (shudder) or eccentric shalwar kameez, we think Sharmila Farooqi's beau needs to revamp his wardrobe.

Hasham's beau, Sharmila wore Bunto Kazmi to her shaadi... and it seems like as did Hasham!
Hasham's beau, Sharmila wore Bunto Kazmi to her shaadi... and it seems like as did Hasham!

Much like wifey, who is a fashion risk-taker, Riaz, too, is daring with his clothing but misses the mark more often than not.

So. Much. Velvet.
So. Much. Velvet.

Someone needs to inform Hasham that rim-less specs are so five years ago. With a pair of contacts, some frizz-free serum for the hair and a shopping trip with the Mrs, we reckon Hasham should be on track in no time!


MQM

Signature style: Locally sourced pant-shirt combo, with an undying devotion to the colour beige and checkered shirts. Ill-fitting blazers make an appearance for special events, but you'll seldom see a tie.

Khuwaja Izrahul Hasan, Qamar Mansoor and Farooq Sattar: So apparently ties are not a thing.. — Photo courtesy: MQM wesbite
Khuwaja Izrahul Hasan, Qamar Mansoor and Farooq Sattar: So apparently ties are not a thing.. — Photo courtesy: MQM wesbite

Best dressed: Altaf Hussain.

Altaf Bhai was quite the sartorial swinger back in the day. He couldn't fully commit to any one style, jumping from shalwar kameez and waistcoat combos to 70s inspired shirt-plus-pant looks. The only exception to this commitment phobia was his love for aviators.

Ever blazing waistcoat— Photo Courtesy: Dawn Herald, May 1994
Ever blazing waistcoat— Photo Courtesy: Dawn Herald, May 1994
Shady business: back then it was a thing to wear shades in shade—Photo Courtesy: Dawn Herald, May 1994
Shady business: back then it was a thing to wear shades in shade—Photo Courtesy: Dawn Herald, May 1994
Bhai has evolved over the years but his loyalty to aviators has not wavered
Bhai has evolved over the years but his loyalty to aviators has not wavered

As he matured, Altaf Bhai began to stick to just two styles — one, a roomy shirt with a blazer and two, his beloved shalwar kameez with a waistcoat. Of course, his waistcoat swag must never be confused with PTI's — Altaf Bhai wears his waistcoats buttoned up to the chin(s) while the PTI boys go for a more relaxed, slouchy vibe.

His party members favour a simpler look, often seen in beige-y pants and shirts and an occasional blazer.

The key difference between the western wear MQM pols don and the western wear PPP stalwarts rock is the make and finish of the garments. One gets the sense the MQM shops at Sanaullah or Chase whereas the PPP pop into Armani, Hugo Boss or even local fave Republic.

Half-sleeved shirts for the win.
Half-sleeved shirts for the win.

Special mention: Ishratul Ibad, Haider Abbas Rizvi and Faisal Sabzwari

Whether it is about posing on a bike or issuing a party statement, Haider Abbas Rizvi's salt 'n' pepper look makes him appear like quite the silver fox. All that traveling to the US has done him good!

An ensemble, which would have looked like a disaster on any other party member, works as Rizvi manages to pull off even acid washed jeans and tweed blazer.
An ensemble, which would have looked like a disaster on any other party member, works as Rizvi manages to pull off even acid washed jeans and tweed blazer.

Popular for his eloquent monologues, Faisal Subzwari can pull off a Lucknowi style kurta-pajama in gatherings, an unbuttoned polo during party's frequent hangami ijlaas or a casual jacket for his batting or selfie moments.

Kurta-pajama is the thing, savvy?
Kurta-pajama is the thing, savvy?

Although he frequently makes the news, Ishratul Ibad is seldom seen outside office. However, when he is actually surrounded by photographers, he can be seen in a sherwani or suited-up. Ibad is quite the hip pol — he blew many away by playing the electric guitar during a recent event.

Politician by day and rock star by night.
Politician by day and rock star by night.

Needs a makeover: The MQM supporter

The MQM supporter will wear anything ranging from kurta-shalwar to kurta-jeans to a plain tee with a message: It's usually 'I love Altaf'. Women resort to lawn joras with party-themed bangles and nail colour, depending on the occasion.

MQM supporters look pretty unkempt.
MQM supporters look pretty unkempt.

PML-N

Signature style: Much like the present state of their government, their style has no direction.

Chaudhry Nisar, for example, is often in a shalwar kameez that looks like its really been put through its paces. When he does defer to occasion and dons a suit, he looks like a fish out of water: case in point, his totally awk appearance with John Kerry.

Nisar clearly feels in his element clad in shalwar kameez (L). He looks 50 shades of miserable in his gray suit (R).
Nisar clearly feels in his element clad in shalwar kameez (L). He looks 50 shades of miserable in his gray suit (R).

Talking about being astray, PM Nawaz Sharif is no better: The president of the party has been confused between shalwar kameez and suits for a long time.

It's no secret that he likes the finer things in life, like the Louis Moinet 'Meteoris' watch he sported recently, worth a whopping $4.6 million reportedly. Wouldn't it be nice if money bought some fashion inspiration?

The hair was cash well-spent but we think it's time to fork over some dough for a stylist.
The hair was cash well-spent but we think it's time to fork over some dough for a stylist.

His brother, Shahbaz Sharif, on the other hand, looks equally at ease in suits, paired with quirky ties and shalwar kameez and cleans up quite nicely. We have to ask: why can't this party just choose a style and be done with it?

Best dressed: Sardar Ayaz Sadiq and Ahsan Iqbal

These two rarely get it wrong. Ayaz Sadiq is dressed quite smartly, donning either a shalwar kameez and a waist coat or formal Western wear. As the speaker of the National Assembly, he is seen wearing a black robe usually.

The duo is usually spotted looking dapper in their suits.
The duo is usually spotted looking dapper in their suits.

Special mention: Maryam Nawaz — not because of her clothes necessarily, but we want her skin care regime.

We don't know whether its Multani mitti or her latest stash from Sephora, but she's doing something right. Also, her lip-lining abilities could give Kylie Jenner a run for her money. Just look at that plump pout!

Her eyebrows are on fleek.
Her eyebrows are on fleek.

Needs a makeover: Mamnoon Hussain

The devil is in the details and a skilled tailor will ensure that you look your best when you meet and greet foreign diplomats and represent Pakistan globally. You're slimmer than you think, Mr President!


The military:

Signature style: History demands that our men in khaki get a mention. We're not sure whether its all that training and rigid adherence to rules, but our military top brass is rarely seen with a hair out of place.

Out of uniform their look is formal, buttoned-up and severe. We'd like to see them loosen up a little!

With Pakistan having seen different tenures of military regimes, Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan and Zia-Ul-Haq each had a unique — but not too unique — take on the military's stiff upper lip look.

Blast from the past
Blast from the past

Although it was a rarity to see Ashfaque Kiyani in formals or casuals, the general did know about the vogue wave. And we think he's channeling Jinnah in this picture below, (L) isn't he?

Best dressed: Pervez Musharraf

Be it his historic India visit to meet then PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee or any other meet-up in the political role he took on, Pervez Musharraf never lagged behind in style.

Mushy's got swag
Mushy's got swag

Special mention: Raheel Sharif,

The present COAS, Raheel Sharif, who is very active with respect to state issues showed off his sense of dressing during his visit to the United States Secretary of State last year. Not bad!

That stache though.
That stache though.

For better or worse, our pols never stray to far from their party's look.

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