Black Suit or Sherwani: What will Prime Minister Imran Khan wear to the White House?

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Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan (AFP)
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Imran Khan took oath as Pakistan’s 22nd Prime Minister in a black sherwani on August 18th, 2019 (AFP)
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Imran Khan, wearing a black sherwani, is greeted by King Salman in Jeddah on September 19th, 2018 (SPA)
Updated 22 July 2019

Black Suit or Sherwani: What will Prime Minister Imran Khan wear to the White House?

  • In the past, Pakistani heads of state have usually sidelined traditional clothing in favour of suits for the White House
  • Khan’s signature look is a shalvar kameez with a buttoned blazer

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has landed in Washington DC and will be meeting US President Donald Trump on Monday. 
Reportedly, the agenda is packed full of different issues with a focus on strengthening bilateral ties. But a focus on neckties is also in order, without missing a sartorial beat.
The question is: What will Imran Khan wear on what is, arguably, going to be one of his most important diplomatic moments since taking office last year?
Traditionally, Khan leads toward tradition. He is a huge fan of Peshawari chappals (sandals), monochromatic kameez (tunics) and white shalwars (loose trousers), topped with a blazer or a structured waistcoat. For more official scenarios, like his swearing in ceremony, a sherwani- a formal, coat-like garment- is his go-to.
Khan has not wavered from his chosen minimalist aesthetic and seems quite unbothered by his predictable fashion choices on state visits, when receiving visitors to Pakistan or otherwise. 
On state visits, such as that by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia earlier this year, Khan stayed firm on his single-track sartorial course.

Sarfaraz Ahmed (second row, left) wearing a shalvar kameez with blazer while meeting the Queen in a pre-World Cup 2019 meet and greet on May 30th, 2019. Ahmed's outfit choice was trending on Pakistan Twitter and widely celebrated (YUI MOK / POOL / AFP)

In the hallways where history is made, this is for some, a cause for national pride. Whereas a tailored suit for men is generally considered top-brass for formal dressing, a push for symbolic culturalism has started gaining strength as a trend. In a sea of black suits and neckties at the G-20 summit in Osaka last month, Khan was one of only a handful of world leaders in traditional clothing.
Before the Cricket World Cup, a photo of Pakistan cricket captain Sarfaraz Ahmed went viral when the skipper took a cue from Khan and met Queen Elizabeth in the Pakistani Prime Minister’s signature shalvar kameez with blazer combination. 
Ahmed faced some heavy criticism, since none of the other South Asian captains wore their traditional dress, but Pakistani Twitter rallied behind him for not going in for the royal handshake in western formal wear and sticking to representing Pakistan in clothes from Pakistan.
In the past, Pakistani heads of state and high-ranking officials meeting world leaders, particularly in the US, have opted for a suit and tie. 

Former President Pervez Musharraf, in suit and tie, walking with former US President George Bush at the White House March 4th, 2006 (AFP)

Former President Pervez Musharraf wore a suit in 2006 when meeting with US President George Bush. 

A suited former President Asif Zardari meeting Barack Obama at the Oval Office, January 14, 2011. (Official White House Photo/AFP)

In 2008, then Pakistani President Asif Zardari met with then President Bush in a suit and tie, and did so again the following year when meeting President Barack Obama.

Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif with then US President Barack Obama replying to media queries in White House, USA on Oct 22, 2015.  Photo Courtesy: AP

Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also rocked the western suit look, complete with a festive blue tie, when meeting Obama in 2013.
Wearing traditional dress however is not unprecedented territory. A number of former Pakistani leaders have done that too.

General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq stands in a tailored sherwani with former US President Ronald Reagan at the Oval Office on 7 December, 1982 (NSA ARCHIVES)

The sherwani was the go-to choice for former Pakistan president General Muhammad Zia Ul Haq (1978-1988), who wore it when meeting US Presidents Carter and Reagan.
Even Sharif went the eastern route in a sherwani when meeting Bill Clinton at the UN in September 1998.

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in a sherwani speaking with former US President Bill Clinton at the United Nations in New York, September 21st, 1998. (AFP)

The late former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, in her signature shalvar kameez and blazer combination, takes a walk with US President Bill Clinton at the US Embassy in Islamabad on April 11th, 1995 (US Embassy Islamabad)

Whatever he chooses, Khan’s Monday mystery outfit for the White House will be watched very closely by the fashion hawks, and though it might not have any bearing on what comes out of the much anticipated meeting, at least the photograph will be one for the archives. 

Islamabad administration invites beggars, trans people to join campaign to ban plastic

Updated 23 August 2019

Islamabad administration invites beggars, trans people to join campaign to ban plastic

  • Deputy commissioner proposes that marginalized groups sell paper and fabric bags instead of begging on the streets
  • Local government banned the manufacture, sale and distribution of plastic carrier bags last week

ISLAMABAD: The deputy commissioner of Pakistan’s federal capital has invited beggars and transgender persons to sell paper and fabric bags instead of seeking alms around the city, thus helping the Ministry of Climate Change implement its decision to ban plastic bags.
The Islamabad local government banned the manufacture, sale, and distribution of plastic carrier bags last week, on the country’s independence day, as part of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s “Clean, Green Pakistan” campaign.
The new ban follows a three-month-long campaign to raise awareness about the environmental hazards of plastic bags, which can kill wildlife, block drainage systems, collect in waterways and cause other environmental and health problems.
“We have invited transgender people and beggars to sell paper bags – or any type of biodegradable shopping bags – in the city,” Muhammad Hamza Shafqaat, Islamabad’s deputy commissioner, told Arab News on Friday. “We will neither charge them rental or license fee nor impose a fine on them. They can also set up makeshift stalls after informing us at a location of their choice.”
Shafqaat is spearheading the awareness campaign against plastic bags in Islamabad and said involving beggars and transgender persons in the administration’s campaign against plastic would also help them earn a decent living.
“Our local administration’s new policy has widely been welcomed by the public,” the official said. “This is because our aim is also to help these marginalized segments and make them contribute toward a clean and green country.”
Pakistan is on its way to becoming the 128th country in the world that will end the use of non-biodegradable material made from various types of polymers that are harmful to the environment. It is ranked number seven on the index of climate change.
In an interview to Arab News just days before the ban came into effect, State Minister for Climate Change Zartaj Gul said: “We want Pakistan to be plastic-free because it is a burden on our environment.”
She also added that Pakistan wanted to demonstrate to the world that it was “contributing to green initiatives.”