The over-the-top Pakistani press

A Pakistani columnist decides that “introspection is not as fashionable as Roberto Cavalli shades” and goes on to pen an ode to all the brands he can think about, not to mention referring to his country’s foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar as HRK. Is that a trendy take on SRK, Shahrukh Khan, or Her Royal Kink? My views have already been expressed.

Masood Hasan’s column in The News lacks a sense of propriety and proportion. So much like outsized shades, isn’t it? These are the same ‘liberals’ who will take up for a Veena Malik whose contribution to foreign policy was to be cooped up in an Indian reality show. Take a look at the canapé-level arguments:

“Let’s get one thing straight. One dresses for the occasion. Anyone recall Angelina Jolie’s ‘designer’ outfits on her many visits to the Afghan camps? There is a time and place for all things. I think HRK didn’t quite get that right. She has many things going for her but maturity and a sense of balance seem to be virtues that Pakistan’s new foreign minister does not care about much.”

Angelina Jolie did quite the opposite with a devious purpose, by playing up stereotypes. There is also a huge difference between camps and a country. Ms. Khar was a visiting minister to India, a nation that is home to several flagship stores of international labels.  

“While she must have spent an enormous amount of time choosing her wardrobe and accessories – she has a talent for accessories as a gushing designer confided last week, one wishes there were men or women who could have briefed her on how she must conduct herself – but this is unlikely in a country where ‘yes sir, yes sir, three bags full’, is the most successful strategy.”

This tells us a good deal more about the gossip Mr. Hasan has his antenna up for rather than the minister’s conduct. The important thing is not how she was accessorised, but whether she made any false moves in her speeches. The way one conducts oneself depends on behaviour and not on what one wears. Unlike the President Asif Ali Zardari who referred to Sarah Palin as gorgeous in an official meeting, there was nothing remiss about the way Ms. Khar projected herself. She was indeed briefed, but about Pakistan’s political position that she reiterated. Perhaps the “yes sir, yes sir” types are not as adept as spotting labels as Mr. Hasan is.

The dear gentleman is doling out epithets with a double-edged sword. He calls Indian diplomats suave, but adds what can only be considered an Omar Sharif-like standup act. He states:

“The Indians thus dress so simply that you can mistake them for minions whereas they may be billionaires. They go to work in loose sandals and creased trousers or faded jeans but sit and make strategic decisions that run into billions of dollars and have the power to change the direction of their huge country. Simplicity is not a put on like our constant bowing and scraping to the Maker without any meaning or sincerity. Our rulers and high stake rollers live in mansions of glory. Indians richer than their counterparts here live in modest homes. Retired generals there live in small houses or high-rise flats.”

One understands the inherent feudalism in Pakistani society, yet one fails to comprehend the blinkers the writer wears, either while writing or when he visited India. Has he heard about the Ambanis, the Tatas, the Birlas, the Godrejs, the Premjis, the Narayan Murthys, the Reddys? Has he read about their private jets, their parties, their weddings, their lifetsyle, their homes, and of course their accessories? Our ministers often refuse to leave their bungalows even after their term ends and retired generals take their time retiring. He is clearly basing his “loose sandals” observation on something from R.K. Narayan’s books, or perhaps referring to some of the older politicians who prefer to dress in traditional wear, such as the dhoti or the mundu. Rest assured, they are not trying to identify with the common man, for they get into their limited edition vehicles too and have a neat collection of real estate and jewellery.

If there is anyone who reveals caste and class consciousness it is the writer. He obviously does not understand the implication of the term minions. It is insulting that he thinks Indian leaders could pass off as vassals only because of what they wear. Perhaps he was just served his rack of lamb marinaded overnight by a member of the staff who he treats like a minion.

One does not know whether Ms. Khar read up on India, as he admonishes, but he does not seem to have done so. Instead of telling us what he expected out of the discussions, he decides to make a list of the lady’s wardrobe ‘malfunction’. Indeed, Indians went overboard in noting her couture with unbecoming awe and Pakistanis with derision. The internal politics of her tax evasion is a matter that ought to be discussed and resolved by the people and her party. Her shoes have got nothing to do with it. Why should a foreign minister tell India “my country is struggling – with terrorism, suicide bombers, law and order, the Afghan problem, a poor economy and so on but that we would prevail if there is peace”? Mr. Hasan seems to be suffering from a perennial mai-baap hangover due to Pakistan’s helplessness with regard to the US.

Had she highlighted the details that are not a secret anyway would the honourable columnist step down from his pedestal and permit her the indulgence of accessories? Or would he expect her to be dressed up as a ‘struggler’? America is going through its worst debt crisis. What are its ministers supposed to wear? As one who has visited Pakistan a few times and seen both its elite and its interiors, I do not see how drawing attention to the social ills would take the peace process forward. Has Masood Hasan spoken to the law enforcement people, the Afghans, the terorists, the very poor, the suicide bombers and asked them how exactly they view the peace process?

What did he expect from this meeting when there have been others that brought nothing? I guess it would be expecting too much from someone who, while dissing the “lollipops”, spends considerable time reading up on the shenanigans of the “fash frat”. It is a pity that he feels Pakisanis have egg on their face. I suppose it is inevitable if all you concentrate on is the chinks in the chick’s armour.


  1. Pakistan media is like this and Masood is known in Lahore circles for such frivolous attitude.Hina visit was overblown.

  2. FV
    Exactly why it was a must read!!

    BTW Flipkart says "FV Rs. 59/= off" - I'll give it a try.

  3. Anon:

    I am sure there is more to the Pakistani media, but their op-eds occasionally sound like Page 3. Incidentally, it is happens in India too. I mean, we have terms like "Rahul baba" in serious edit pieces, and they are not even parodies.

  4. TE:

    Next time do issue a disclaimer. Some of us are so trusting!

    PS: Only Rs. 59 off? Since I've misplaced my personal copy, and am too lazy to visit the bookstores, I might have to do something similar. But I'll wait for the next budget session. After all, I do have the Press Copy.

    Btw, while Indians are so lax, here is a review by a Japanese at Amazon:



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