Sabaat: Good Girls Wear Shalwar Kameez, Bad Girls Wear Jeans

On Monday, the government decided to bring revolutionary reform in institutions of higher education. Any ordinary governing body would have thought about improving the quality of teaching or upgrading facilities available to students, but the government like always, did the extraordinary by telling the teaching staff “what to wear.”

The Federal Directorate of Education (FDE) asked female teachers not to wear jeans and tights and banned their male counterparts from wearing jeans and t-shirts. I have no great sympathy for jeans; they are quite unforgiving as choice of clothing. But the question remains how can jeans interfere with the sacred profession of teaching? Unless the honorable members of FDE have watched too many Pakistani dramas, and they are afraid that teaching staff wearing jeans could turn out to be demons, as our dramas portray them. Your next Chemistry teacher could be Miral from Sabaat, who might set the whole lab on fire to take revenge for not getting a promotion.

If you recently started watching a drama from a random episode, and can’t decide which character is an angel and which is a vamp, just look at the way they are dressed.
Your next Chemistry teacher could be Miral from Sabaat, who might set the whole lab on fire to take revenge for not getting a promotion.

The one who is dressed in traditional shalwar kameez and a dupatta covering her head is the Naik Parveen, the good girl, who can do no wrong and is on the receiving end of all the Zulm (cruelty). The one who wears shalwar kameez but does not wear a dupatta, has potential to do wrong and can manipulate others. The one who wears jeans or western clothes is the epitome of all evil, Barri Ibleesan; she will be the most evil person on earth, who can never do any good.

In Sabaat drama, Anaya, played by Mawra Hocane, is always dressed in simple shalwar kameez with a dupatta covering her head; she is a hardworking student who is not afraid of speaking her mind, but would never cause harm to anyone.

On the other hand, Miral, played by Sarah Khan, is always dressed in western clothes. Sometimes her choice of western attire makes no sense; even when everyone else is wearing summer clothes, she is covered in long coats and turtlenecks with jeans. The character is the biggest villain to walk on earth. She is the kind of person who would slap you for just breathing too loud. She slaps Anaya in front of her friends over a small argument, sets fire to her brother’s room on his wedding night, and tries to sabotage her brother’s marriage. Imagine any nasty thing you can do to harm another human being, and Miral is capable of doing it.

Miral played by Sarah Khan. The character is the biggest villain to walk on earth. She is the kind of person who would slap you for just breathing too loud

But Miral’s look is not randomly put together. If we look at all the characters Sarah Khan has played before Miral, they were always dressed in shalwar kameez. This time to boost her performance as a negative character, the production team deemed it fit to put her in a pair of jeans and a long coat.

Similarly, Fitrat, which was aired on Geo, was a classic Bad Sister, Good Sister trope. Saboor Aly played the character of Fariya, who is shown as a schemer; someone who does not hesitate even a bit from ruining another’s life. As opposed to her, Zubab Rana, playing the character of Rafiya, cannot even think of hurting an ant.

Even from posters one can see that Saboor is put in a short-sleeved top with jeans, whereas Zubab is wearing shalwar kameez.

Another drama, Mohlat, which was recently aired on Geo follows the same jeans ideology to portray characters in their respective light.

Maham, played by Kinza Hashmi, is shown as an extremely self-centered and a vile human being, who has no regard for her own daughter; someone who steals things from her in laws and sabotages any prospects for her youngest sister. Whereas, Navera, played by Komal Aziz Khan, is shown as a robot, who is only wired to do good. Even if Maham drives over Komal’s body, she would only get up to make sure that Maham is not hurt. The drama’s poster shows Kinza Hashmi wearing a red coat and jeans, whereas Komal Aziz is shown wearing shalwar kameez, with dupatta.

It is not a mere coincidence that grown up, educated people with adequate exposure and awareness, sitting in meetings of Federal Directorate of Education, decided that if teachers will wear jeans on campus, it will undermine their status as educationists. I would definitely concede that clothing is not neutral. Clothes are cultural symbols and markers of your social status or ethnic identity, but we must credit our dramas for making clothes also our character certificates. For creating an image of bad women in minds of audience, who is always wearing jeans. Any God-fearing person would definitely believe that if we ban jeans from campus, we might solve all the problems which plague our institutions of higher education, by the barakat (blessing) of banning jeans.

If there is any silver lining in this decision, it is that if next time Ali Zaroon asks you: “kis ne jeans karī mamnūa,” without any doubt you can tell him that it was the Federal Directorate of Education.


The writer is a Lahore-based educationist. He can be reached on Twitter @LahoreMarquez