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Who Made Shalwar Kameez the Pakistani National Dress?

Who Made Shalwar Kameez the Pakistani National Dress

Shalwar Kameez is a traditional dress widely recognized as Pakistan’s national attire. However, many people might not know that for quite a while after the country’s creation, this Pakistani outfit was considered the clothing of the poor and labourers. So, who made Shalwar Kameez a national and public dress, and how did it become one of the defining elements of Pakistan’s cultural identity?

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s Influence on Shalwar Kameez

A significant figure behind the rise of Shalwar Kameez as the national dress is Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the founder of the Pakistan People’s Party. As a former Prime Minister, he was essential in popularizing the Shalwar Kameez amongst the general public.

It is said that Bhutto chose the outfit to convey his value and worthiness for the support of the people. As such, he used the slogan “Roti (Bread), Kaprha (Cloth), and Makan (House)” to emphasize the importance of necessities for ordinary people.

During the 1970s, Bhutto began wearing a simple Shalwar Kameez in his rallies and meetings to connect with the citizens and present himself as relatable to their struggles. This move eventually marked a significant shift in the clothing culture, as many who once considered pant-shirts and court pants the best attire started to see the merit of the humble Shalwar Kameez.

General Zia-ul-Haq’s Influence on Shalwar Kameez

Following Bhutto, General Zia-ul-Haq further cemented the cultural significance of the Shalwar Kameez. After taking office, Zia-ul-Haq made it mandatory for government officials to wear traditional attire. This decision played a crucial role in elevating the status of Shalwar Kameez from a simple outfit to a symbol of national pride and unity.

The Role of the Media in Popularizing Shalwar Kameez

The media also deserves credit for making the Shalwar Kameez the national dress of Pakistan. PTV’s drama serial “Karan Kahani” played a significant role in popularizing the outfit. When the actors in the show started donning Shalwar Kameez, it quickly boosted the demand for the traditional outfit, making it more widely accepted and admired.


In summary, the history behind making Shalwar Kameez the national dress of Pakistan is rich and fascinating. The transformation of this attire from the clothing of the poor to the pride of the nation can be attributed to influential figures such as Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Zia-ul-Haq, as well as the media’s role in showcasing the outfit as a symbol of national identity. Today, the Shalwar Kameez stands tall as a testament to Pakistan’s rich and diverse culture.

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