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. 

Pakistan, Saudi Arabia express satisfaction over progress on oil sector projects

Updated 48 min 18 sec ago

Pakistan, Saudi Arabia express satisfaction over progress on oil sector projects

  • Officials of the two countries exchange views on diplomatic and economic relations
  • The government invites Saudi business houses to explore Pakistan’s diverse investment potential

KARACHI: Pakistan and Saudi Arabia on Wednesday expressed satisfaction over the pace of work on mega oil refinery and other joint projects in the oil sector of the South Asian country.

Saudi Ambassador to Pakistan Nawaf bin Said Al-Malki met with Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Petroleum Nadeem Babar in Islamabad and discussed the bilateral relations between the two countries, according to a statement issued by the Petroleum Division.

“The Ambassador was upbeat on the current trajectory of the bilateral relationship between both the countries and described the relationship between both Pakistan and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as ‘brotherly, fraternal and based on solid foundations,’” the statement said.

“This, the Ambassador said, is also reflected in the frequent high-level of exchanges at the leadership level,” the statement added.

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia signed an agreement early last year to set up a $10 billion Aramco oil refinery project and a $1 billion petrochemical complex in Gwadar.

Both countries during the official visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman signed seven investment deals worth $21 billion that included an oil refinery, mineral development, two power plants, and food and agriculture projects.

Pakistan also invited Saudi business houses on Wednesday to explore the diverse investment potential of the country.

Babar shared with the ambassador aspects of the reform process being carried out in Pakistan’s energy sector. “Pakistan has recently emerged as a leading reformer in the World Bank Ease of Doing business rankings and countries are looking at it as a favorable investment destination,” he told the Saudi envoy.

The mega oil refinery with the capacity of around 300,000 BPD is expected to take five to six years for commissioning.

The project is also expected to save Pakistan’s $2-3 billion annually on the import of petroleum products and help the country establish its plastic industry with the operationalization of the petrochemical complex.

Pakistan’s petroleum group imports declined by 19.8 percent during the first half of the current fiscal year. The country has imported $6.14 billion worth of various petroleum products during July-December 2019 out of the total imports worth $23.23 billion, according to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics.

The Saudi oil refinery and petrochemical complex are expected to help Pakistan with the transfer of technology, skill enhancement, and human capital development. It is also likely to generate significant employment opportunities and strengthen allied economic sectors as well.