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Peshawar catwalk facing opposition

Pakistan's most conservative city, Peshawar is set to host its own fashion week in 2011, but the idea seems to be facing more resistance from the country's fashion community than extremist organisations, say organisers.

world Updated: Dec 10, 2010 00:53 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad

Pakistan's most conservative city, Peshawar is set to host its own fashion week in 2011, but the idea seems to be facing more resistance from the country's fashion community than extremist organisations, say organisers. However, the recently formed Peshawar Fashion Council is not deterred.

"I have been working with television channel Style 360 for the last six years and even when I approached my friends in the fashion industry with the idea, they started to laugh at me," says Waqas Ahmed of the Peshawar Fashion Council.

The city of Peshawar has been in the grip of militant attacks and at one time in 2009, the extremist Taliban militia were feared to be within miles of taking over the city.

While the threat of the Taliban has receded, the city continues to be scarred by repeated suicide bomb attacks from extremists.

In 2002, when the provincial government of the province was headed by a coalition of right-wing parties, women were banned from appearing on billboards. Advertising agencies had to bear losses in millions to take off such "offending" billboards or have them draped.

Now, the secular Awami National Party is in power in the province. For them, the idea of a fashion week seems amenable. "We want to change the image of Peshawar as a back-ward and intolerant place," says information minister Iftikhar Hussain.

Waqas Ahmed argues if every major city in Pakistan can have a fashion week, why not Peshawar.

Security remains the biggest worry. The city's main hotel -the Pearl Continental, has been bombed twice. Other hotels would baulk at hosting such an event as it would become an open invitation for attack, say observers. But the Peshawar Fashion Council says it can do it.

So far Pakistan has four scheduled fashion weeks, two per season from Fashion Pakistan and Pakistan Fashion Design Council, amongst a plethora of corporate-sponsored fashion events and the recent additions of Islamabad Fashion Week and Bridal Couture Week.