In the PM’s dressing room: Meet the man making couture suiting for Imran Khan

In this undated photo, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan poses for a New York Times photo shoot wearing a traditional shalwar kameez suit with a waistcoat. (New York Times photo)
Updated 16 May 2019
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In the PM’s dressing room: Meet the man making couture suiting for Imran Khan

  • Islamabad-based brand Mohtaram stitched seven shalwar kameez suits for Imran Khan last month
  • “This is as high as it gets,” said Fahad Saif, the founder and CEO of the luxury brand

ISLAMABAD: When Fahad Saif quit his corporate job in 2016 to start a bespoke suiting business in Islamabad, he never thought he would be designing clothes for the highest office in the land.

About a month ago, a member of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party and a longtime client of Saif’s said he would put in a good word about the brand with Prime Minister Imran Khan. A week later, Saif got his first order to make seven shalwar kameez for the premier.

“This is as high as it gets,” Saif, 34, the founder and CEO of luxury clothing brand Mohtaram, told Arab News on Tuesday.

“We just happened to have a few very close clients from the (ruling) political party and they just naturally recommended us to Prime Minister (Imran Khan),” Saif added. “It felt surreal receiving Mr. Khan’s order.”

“It happened so fast that we really didn’t have the time to absorb the entire thing,” the entrepreneur said smilingly when asked about his experience of dressing the prime minister. “Actually I’ll give a lot of credit to him [Khan] and his team that they made it very effortless for us.”

Saif initially started his business by making bespoke shirts and has now moved on to suits, shalwar kameez, waistcoats and even sherwanis, which he is currently designing for PM Khan.

The company’s official tagline is “Made Proudly in Pakistan,” and the concept behind Mohtaram, which means ‘gentleman’ in Urdu, is to combine history, culture and the modern aesthetic to produce clothes for the perfect Pakistani gentleman.

“To be able to deliver our manifesto ‘Made Proudly in Pakistan’ to the highest office was more fulfilling than any other campaign we aspired to work on," Saif posted on his company’s Instagram page.

He says he was thrilled to see Khan wearing one of Mohtaram’s designs during a parliamentary session earlier this week though Arab News could not immediately verify that it was one of Saif’s creations.

“I observed that it seemed like one of our cuts and one of our patterns,” Saif said. “We have a few signature parts to our designs that at least we can now recognize.”

Khan’s measurements for the first order were delivered to Mohtaram but Saif hopes he will get to meet the prime minister personally to take his next order and also speak to him about more government support for startups that Saif said had the potential to contribute to Pakistan’s ailing economy.

“I would probably want to talk [to the PM] about how startups like ours can contribute to the development of the overall economy,” Saif said.


In Peshawar prison, women inmates share food and prayers in Ramadan

Updated 26 May 2019
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In Peshawar prison, women inmates share food and prayers in Ramadan

PESHAWAR: Located next to iconic landmarks like the Provincial Assembly and the High Court, the central prison in Pakistan’s northwestern city of Peshawar is a handsome old building bursting at the seams with over 18,000 prisoners. 38 of them are women.

The existing building was established in 1854 with an occupancy limit of 425 prisoners, but with the influx of thousands of inmates, a new block is now under construction and slated for completion by the end of the year. 

Inside the prison kitchens, convicted prisoners make round traditional bread and prepare Iftar meals for other inmates. May 25, 2019. (AN photo by Saba Rehman)

The prison department provides basic facilities and food to inmates still under trial and to those convicted in the male, female and juvenile sections. During the month of Ramadan, these facilities extend to include special meals at Iftar, like sweet rice, chicken and potatoes served with a side of milky hot tea. 

A female inmate cooks chicken gravy for herself and other prisoners in the prison barracks before Iftar. May 25, 2019. (AN photo by Saba Rehman)

“We get good food in this month (of Ramadan) and are free to offer our prayers and recite the Holy Quran at any time,” said Shahida, an inmate who has been in the prison for five years but was convicted for murder late last year. 

Acting superintendent of the prison releases prisoners after the court orders arrive. The inmates receive the good news right before Iftar time in Ramadan. May 25, 2019. (AN photo by Saba Rehman)

The large hall of the women’s section has a scattering of beds, but most inmates sleep, eat and pray on quilts spread out on the floor. 

A police officer stands guard outside the entrance to the women’s section in Peshawar’s central jail. May 25, 2019. (AN photo by Saba Rehman)

"Some of the women get sick often,” said Iffat Shaheen, assistant superintendent of the women’s prison section. “Right now we have two pregnancy cases and one case of HIV AIDS, so we try to give them good meals. A few prisoners have small children inside prison with them and they get milk as well.” 

A female inmate gives English lessons to some of the children at the Peshawar central prison. May 25, 2019. (AN photo by Saba Rehman)

Another female inmate convicted for possession of drugs has been in prison for seven months. She declined to be identified but said they had a lot of free time in Ramadan that could be put to good use. 

Women in Peshawar’s central prison spend their days reading the Quran and reciting prayer beads during the month of Ramadan. May 25, 2019. (AN photo by Saba Rehman)

“This is a helpful time for us to learn skills like handicrafts and sewing,” she said. “When we leave prison, perhaps these things will pave the way for a good, halal living.” 

A woman inmate at Peshawar’s central jail has decorated her hands with henna in anticipation of the holy festival of Eid, which will mark the end of Ramadan. May 25, 2019. (AN photo by Saba Rehman)
Rooh Afza, a popular indigenous drink made from herbs and flowers, is served around Peshawar’s central prison by the bucketfuls before Iftar. May 25, 2019. (AN photo by Saba Rehman)
Weekly menu written out for prisoners at Peshawar’s central jail in Urdu. May 25, 2019. (AN photo by Saba Rehman)