Can you wear shorts in Pakistan without getting killed?

A few weeks ago, I went shopping with my husband, and on the way home, we stopped at Mc Donald’s to grab a quick bite. A deadly storm had hit the city just a few days ago, so I didn’t find it odd when a woman seated at a table next to us asked me if we had power at our house.

I replied in affirmative and continued with my meal, but the woman – a chatty sort – went on to say how terrible the Deputy Indian Counsel General was for under-paying her maid.

All good conversation, I guess …

Suddenly, she asked me which part of India I was from.

On letting her know I was actually from Pakistan, a mix of horror and sympathy flashed across her face.

“You must be glad you’re in Canada, eh?”

I was confused; yes, I was happy to be in Canada, but I am never glad to rid myself of Pakistan.

“I love my country,” I replied, to which she immediately retorted,

“Why? Can you roam around in shorts in Pakistan without getting killed?”

At this point, my husband was getting rather irked, so we left and continued our shopping, but for some reason, the woman’s remark stayed with me all day.

To answer her question, yes, you can wear shorts in some areas of Pakistan. In fact, just yesterday a friend of mine celebrated her engagement party in Karachi, Pakistan and the dress-code of the event seemed to be ‘dresses’. Pictures she posted to her Facebook Profile showed many girls wearing dresses cut well above the knees while some chose to wear dresses that were trailing the ground.

Yet, it is a fact that in some parts of Pakistan, this sort of attire would be culturally unacceptable – even before the Taliban. However, in some parts, it is a norm, especially in the urban areas of the country. Tragically, the media depicts Pakistan to be a country where men without a beard are an abomination and a liberal, independent woman is alien.

To make up for where our media lacks severely, let me list some facts about those residing in Pakistan which you may find surprising:

The Pakistan you may know:

Young men attending religious schools — called madrassas — where they dress in the traditional shalwar kameez, grow a beard, wear skull caps and study the Quran in great detail.

The Pakistan you may not know:

Have you heard? A mixed boys and girls team is representing Pakistan in an international rowing competition!

Yesterday, my brother informed me that he had made it to his school’s international rowing team and would be representing Pakistan in Dubai in February.

The Pakistan you may know:

You may have heard of women suffering honour killings at the hands of their relatives if they dare to interact with men unbeknown to them.

The Pakistan you may not know:

Did you know that there is a bi-weekly club scene in Karachi, Pakistan, called Fez Night, where young girls and boys get together and dance from dusk to dawn? It is a really exciting night with a live DJ and alcohol. Girls dress to impress, often wearing latest creations of renowned designers like GUCCI and Louis Vuitton.

The Pakistan you may know:

Women are suppressed and are not allowed to study even though they ardently desire to, take Malala for example.

The Pakistan you may not know:

Then there is the Pakistan where my father lives. He spent his life-savings to send his daughter – not son, mind you — to attend university abroad. There are many men like this in my country who believe that daughters are just as deserving, if not more, than sons.

The Pakistan you may know:

This is the country where men are only interested in guns and warfare.

The Pakistan you may not know:

To this Pakistan belongs a man, named Abdul Sattar Edhi, who has devoted his entire life to serving the people. He looks after animals, spends all his money on ambulances and abandoned children and asks for nothing in return except donations.

If you are reading my blog and have never been to Pakistan, I hope you can understand now that categories of just black and white do not always work. There always exists a grey area, and understanding this is where the challenge lies. My country has a lot of problems and I am the first one to criticize it for them, but I will also stand up to defend it when it has been wronged.

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3 thoughts on “Can you wear shorts in Pakistan without getting killed?

  1. No we can’t and we shouldn’t wear shorts. And if we do then we should not come running back whining that people are looking at us in a funny way.
    The reason is very simple, we have some boundaries, we have to stay in, as Muslims and as citizens of a country that is an Islamic country. This has to stop! Why do we have to explain ourselves to others, what right do they have to judge us? Why are we so insecure? Who gave anyone the right to judge my country and it’s citizens without even visiting it once? When are we gonna get out of this inferiority complex, we don’t have to be like the westerners. We have our own values and rules of society, we should be proud of it while trying to salvage whatever there is left of it instead of ridiculing it. I applaud the west for the advancement in technology and medicine and many other things but I have lived here for the past 12 years and so I am also aware that morally this society is dead, it’s rotting and you want to follow them in this? Do you think it’s gonna end with just shorts? Have you not seen around you?, The enormous billboards, magazines and etc,they way the image of women is tarnished and objectified in the media here? You are advocating for this? Why stop at shorts then? why not talk about complete freedom? Where people do whatever they please, lets bring pre martial relationships and same sex marriages on the table too because oh well I don’t want you to feel uncomfortable if someone asks you about these things and what’s Pakistan policy on it. We know if we once skip the boundaries there is no coming back.
    And it’s not like you are completely oblivious to the norms of our society in Pakistan let me quote you from your previous blog posts…
    “I agree with the statement that the advertisement was generally “perceived as indecent, immoral and in sheer disregard to our socio-cultural and religious values.””- blog post by the same author on her blog
    “The movie did not showcase beautiful legs, sensuous bodies in bikinies or studs on bikes. It was simple, and reminded me of the elegance of the Bollywood of the past.”- blog post post from the author on how good and elegant movie seemed without the vulgarity.

    You mention Malala, really? That 16 yr old got a standing ovation in The UN Assembly, and yes she had her head covered. You talk about Edhi? Have you seen him and his wife and their modest life style? And then You talk about the girls and boys clad in designer wear who dance all night ? It a little confusing and I’m missing the connection. Do we have to get materialistic to be accepted, do we have to own braand name rip offs to be accepted as nation worth visiting.
    Please dont isolate your brothers and sisters who find peace in following the religion more ardently. You can wear whatever you want, but don’t bash them for having a lifestyle different than yours. You make it seem like its a bad thing to study in madrassa and to study Quran and have a beard…when are we going to be confident enough to accept it ?
    I admire your father for giving you the gift of education that’s going to be your most valuable asset, but when you have the luxury of such outlet, this public forum, then please talk about the real challenges our country is facing.
    My country has so many problems, it’s a miracle and mercy of Allah that we still have a land to call our own. Let’s talk about women and education, let’s encourage our youth to do volunteer work and more, rather then trying to convince random strangers and your self that whether you can or can’t wear shorts.
    FYI, I think the question, due to which you felt compelled to write this blog post, was an insulting and rude remark rather than an actual question.
    Peace.

    • mind blowing and a nice reply. I’m myself abroad and being on Internet and reading reviews of the youth on different posts targeting Islam and inducing the people into the western society, I had almost lost my hope of rising again after the fall as a Muslim Ummah but it was so nice reading this comment from you. I’m happy we are all not impressed by the westerns and we know the drawbacks of their society. Pakistan is an Islamic Republic and we’re are proud of it. We need not to follow any society other than an Islamic one. If the lady wants to import the western culture into Pakistan then there should not be any Pakistan, we’re better be with India.

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