Are fashion statements stronger than political statements?

 For as long as I can remember, Maulana Fazlur Rehman is harbouring ambitions of ending up in the PM House. He was one of the candidates back in 2002, then tried his luck again in 2008 and the latest attempt is as recent as the exit of Yousuf Raza Gilani and his Armani suits from the prime ministerial abode. The third time around, too, the Maulana’s effort to weasel his way in was to no avail; he stayed out and somehow Raja Pervaiz Ashraf got in. My sister thinks that Maulana Diesel (as he is affectionately called) is a master politician and the only reason — apart from the fact that his party is nonexistent in two provinces — that he has not been able to make it to his desired destination is his inability to enunciate his political wizardry. I beg to differ; if diction and oratory had been the desired skills then Chaudhry Shujaat would not have made it to the seat of prime minister — even if it was for a few short weeks.
The James Bond-esque shades
The only reason — apart from the clout in that parliament — for Chaudhry Saab’s ascent was his sartorial elegance. While Chaudhry Saab in his crisp shalwar qameez and designer glasses looked quite at home in a cabinet meeting, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, in his orange checkered roomal over his rumpled kurta, could have only looked at home on a dastarkhuwan with sheermal and qorma
Perhaps, if he had been fonder of the diesel of other kind, he would have stood a better chance. It was his sartorial choices — or lack thereof — that sealed his political fate. Pakistan may not be high on international style meter and our fashion weeks do not even get the fraction of buyers that a Milan fashion week gets, but no-one has made it to the top offices in this country after sporting bedraggled shalwar qameez.
The longevity of erstwhile PM Yousuf Raza Gilani at his former position owes a lot to his fashion sense; early on in his position as the head of government, Mr Gilani had learned that no matter how unintelligent he sounds and how he makes a fool of himself — either in the cabinet meetings or during interviews with former journos — a good suit and a shiny new watch can deflect attention from rather serious matters of state. Since then, we have seen Armani suits, Marc Jacobs’ shirts, Rolex watches, impeccably dyed mustache and of course, the occasional Amir Adnan Sherwani. Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, on the other hand, may not survive long. Apart from the very obvious love affair between any PM from PPP and upper judiciary in this country, Raja Saab’s slicked back-do is more appropriate for an Al Capone of Godfather film rather than the Prime Minister’s House. No suit or sherwani can take away that Mafioso look. The moniker his electorate has bestowed up on him — Raja Rental — also deters anyone from taking him seriously.
Perhaps, the only person who thinks that Raja saab is a real prime minister who actually has any control over his government is the chief justice who prompts him to write a letter to random strangers in a country called Switzerland and reopen cases against distinguished people not quite resting in peace. He has not asked the sitting PM to reopen cases against perpetually waiting-to-be PM Nawaz Sharif (is it just me or do other people also feel that Mian saab looks like a vampire at times, always very white and always carnivorous). Two other politicians who owe their popularity to their wardrobe, their sense of style and accessories are Firdous Ashiq Awan and Hina Rabbani Khar. While Hina’s Birkins are easily recognized by most, Firdous’s array of gold bangles is harder to spot, though it is heard that most of her accessories come from the opulent lands of UAE.
If Hina is known to favour Roberto Cavalli shades and the Jimmy Choos that would look great in a Carrie Bradshaw wardrobe, Firdous wins it with her impeccable makeup. It has been pointed out that she does not use any brands other than Bobby Brown and Mac for enhancing her God given beauty. Considering the amount of makeup she uses every day, I have a feeling it would cost the same amount of money it needs to feed an army of a country like Liechtenstein. 

Bobby Brown vs Robert Cavalli
What can and has helped a great deal in the not-so-recent past in the ascent to power is the colour of clothing. If you happen to prefer khaki over all other colours and heads an institution that has over half a million armed men waiting to move against anything and anyone on your orders, chances are that you will at least have a couple of chances to take over the government in your reign. The best thing about this kind of power grab is that you don’t even have to worry about periodic elections and you end up at the top for far longer than any other politico — no matter how many labeled suits he wears. Another thing that aids the men in Khakis to assume and then cling on to the power is their ability to carry big bad boots with their khakis. If khakis maketh the man, then boots are the one that pave the way to the path of power and glory!
Though Khakis have a long established claim to power and glory in this country, the last few years have been instrumental in  bringing another group to the fore — they are ‘The Robed and the Black Coats’. Just because they are endowed with a black robe, they think they can order anyone around — be it an election commissioner or the elected prime minister. They are so high on their robes, imagine how cocky they would have been if they had still been wearing Raj Era wigs. Their conceit would have known no bounds! However, despite their conceit, their self preservation instincts are stronger and they neither issue summons nor do they tell the khakis to write letters to strangers or pay taxes on all the imports for their use.
Originally written for monthly magazine Pique’s August issues
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  • The sub-continent’s celebration of sartorial splendor in a politician begins, of course, with Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

  • Image is everything. Be it loin cloth or an expensive bag.

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