The outfit of Pakistan’s newly sworn-in premier’s wife, Bushra Imran, found itself the center of attention during her husband’s oath taking ceremony. There is more than meets the eye to the outfit that sparked a Pakistani Twitter storm. Draped in an all-white, light-catching white niqab in silk and layered lace, the outfit was completed with white footwear. The outfit ignited huge applause. Bushra Imran’s outfit paid homage to the traditional look, especially with her choice of face covering.
While talking to media after his husband took oath as prime minister at the Aiwan-e-Sadr, Bushra Imran said, such a model of governance free from unnecessary protocols would ensure the well-being of the people. Clad in head-to-toe white silk attire and face-covering veil, Bushra Imran said it was a day of happiness for the Pakistanis.
“I have prayed for this day to become a reality for the betterment of Pakistanis,” she said when asked to share her views on the swearing-in of Prime Minister Imran Khan. The Prime Minister’s wife later mingled with the women guests and exchanged pleasantries with them. Earlier at the occasion of their marriage in January this year, Prime Minister Imran Khan revealed, ““I met her two years ago and whenever I met her [Bushra], I see her behind a veil. I have not seen her face to this day”. He also asked his followers to pray for his happiness, adding that out of 65 years of his age, he spent only 10 years of married life.
Mr Khan, 65, struggled for years to turn popular support into electoral gains. He launched his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in 1996 but he was the only candidate in the party to win a seat in 2002. The PTI boycotted the 2008 vote. Although he has long been one of Pakistan’s best-known faces internationally, he spent years on the political sidelines. It took until the last general election in 2013 for his party to emerge as a serious player, when it narrowly missed becoming the second largest party nationally. But five years on, he has won an election in Pakistan, a nuclear-armed Islamic republic and a potential flashpoint because of its rocky relations with India and Afghanistan.
Oxford-educated Imran Khan had an illustrious career in international cricket spanning two decades from the 1970s.His pin-up looks and private life have ensured he’s been a favourite of the world’s media for decades. He upholds liberalism but at the same time appeals to Islamic values, especially when it comes to perceived interference in Pakistan’s internal affairs. Fame was his constant shadow; today he eschews the gilded good life he had back.
Prime Minister Imran Khan has set out an ambitious agenda. He is determined to reign in elite corruption and increase spending on health, education and women’s welfare. To carry out these important social programs, Mr. Khan needs the support of Pakistan’s civil society. He needs to put an end to the coercion civil society groups have faced from the previous government and the military and help them to function effectively and without constraints.
Unarguably one of the best all-around cricket players in the history of the sport, skilled at both batting and bowling, Khan dominated the pitch in the 1970s and ’80s. His glowing career culminated in a World Cup win for Pakistan in 1992, in which he told his team to “fight like cornered tigers,” sporting T-shirts of the animal as a symbol of his tenacity. Imran Khan being Prime Minister of Pakistan promised that, “We will adhere to austerity. We will be simple,”; “We will strive for good governance. We will not live in palaces. We will build actual state institutions.”
The days he spent atop containers at widely attended, publicized, Khan never wavered from what has now become his look: A monochromatic, unfussy, recognizable Pakistani aesthetic shalwar kameez, indeed. He changes it regionally at times. In Sindh he has been known to don an ajrak scarf or a Sindhi topi; when going somewhere requiring a bit of dressing up he has thrown on a (always tailored) crisp sherwani, polished blazer or a waistcoat. The afore mentioned dharnas saw light blue, navy blue, white, cream, brown, black and grey kameezes paired with white shalvars and stoles color-blocked in PTI hues. He has been sporting Ray-Ban Wayfarers for as long as anyone can remember; it’s perhaps one of his identifiable, signature accompaniments.
In his heart of hearts, Khan is a minimalist. He knows what he likes and he never veers far from the course. Much like his proposed policies and agendas, Khan’s style is paired down, devoid of bling and aiming to be practical while still appealing to the vast majority of the country.
If his style is any indication of what is to come, a leadership that has officially taken down the bells and discarded the whistles is on its way. Foreign media mentioned Imran Khan’s statement which actually says it all. “I want to tell my people, I will live a simple life, I will save your money,”. The statement is actually a foundation on which the newly elected government of Pakistan tends to proceed ahead.
The other key tenet of Mr Khan’s first prime ministerial speech was an appeal to overseas Pakistanis to invest in the country and for the wealthy to start paying taxes. Tax avoidance is a perennial problem in a nation where less than 1 per cent of the population files income tax.
“It is your responsibility to pay taxes,” said Mr Khan. “Think of this as a struggle or battle that you need to pay tax for the betterment of your country.”
Pakistanis have witnessed one political dynasty after another enriches itself while the country crumbles. Public hospitals languish in frightening disrepair; infant mortality has reached higher rates than just about anywhere else in Asia; and countless young Pakistanis flee this country each year in search of work as drivers, janitors and construction workers abroad because there are so few decent jobs at home. Mr. Khan has presented himself as a populist antidote to all that.
Published in Melange Intl. Magazine September 2018.