If Michelle Obama Came to Pakistan: Remembering Jackie Kennedy’s Visit

Posted on May 26, 2010
Filed Under >Sehar Tariq, Foreign Relations, Society
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Sehar Tariq

In 1962, Jacqueline Kennedy – the then Frist Lady of America  – visited Pakistan. Her trip was widely documented and photographed and now a color video of the visit is also circulating on the internet. It is worth watching.

Watching it, makes me nostalgic for gentler times in Pakistan. And not just gentler times but times when bombs and blasts were not the only defining hallmark of our nation. I wonder what would a Michelle Obama visit to Pakistan today might look like?

Well its highly unlikely to happen because how US-Pakistan relations today are defined by a deep mutual distrust, even hatred; fueled constantly by the media and clergy, and targeted not at individuals or agencies whose actions we do not like but at entire nations and all nationals.

But forget Michelle, no other First Lady is likely to visit either. Actually no one is likely to visit!

With the security situation in Pakistan, especially the targeting of Westerners we have deprived our country of a valuable source of income but also good publicity! With our borders closed to visitors and the airwaves open to the ‘breaking news’ images of terrorists and angry young people, Pakistan is not high on the list of popular tourist destinations.

But if some brave First Lady were to venture into Pakistan, her trip would look remarkable different. In this video of Jackie Kennedy’s visit, there are large crowds lining the roads and waving to her. There would be no crowds, thronging the roadside. The would be barricaded miles away.

Jackie and her sister Lee, dazzle the gathered crowds with their smiles and ‘trendy American dress.’ There is no covering of the head or of the arms and legs. Both sisters appear in fashionable form fitting dresses with bare arms and legs. And there is no furore. The crowds seem unmoved by the western dress and rather charmed and enamored. Clearly, there was a time when we were not obsessed with women’s dress and were more tolerant and accepting of what foreigners chose to wear. I doubt it would be the case anymore. If some foreign dignitary wore such clothes today, I imagine, there would be: loud proclamations of collective istaghfirullahs, a program by one of our numerous televangelists declaring them ‘Wajib-ul-qatl’ and some protests by the Jamaat-e-Islami women’s wing demanding a ban on foreign dignitaries.

But the saddest was the realization that no other female foreign dignitary will be visiting the Khyber Pass region anytime soon and walking about freely. And not for a long time, will this region be rightfully recognized for its rich culture, its dancers, poets and legendary story tellers.

14 responses to “If Michelle Obama Came to Pakistan: Remembering Jackie Kennedy’s Visit”

  1. Farooq says:


    Basheer sarban? no?

  2. Humaira says:


    How many women in Pakistan (even if Defence) were jogging in Karachi when Jackie Kennedy came? I am not saying al is well, I am just saying getting carried away with nostalgia is also a disease.

    I can bet you that despite everything, the percentage of women in Pakistan who work today is greater than it was then. That the percentage of women who wear western clothes (not that that is the indication of anything) is greater than it was then. That the percentage of women in Pakistan who are educated today is more than it was then.

    All I am saying is that the “good old days” were not that good and these days aren’t that “bad” either.

  3. Aziz says:

    @Humaira – You might be from Defense area in Karachi and hence have no idea how Pakistan has changed in the last few decades. I have pictures of females in my family wearing trendy dresses, pants, blouses and sometimes bare arms, . Those same women now preach their daughters to dress conservative. Not only that we are less tolorant to western dresses now, we have been brain washed to the point that we think we should not have an option to dress the way we want.

    The other day my sister was jogging in a park in Karachi and some guy with a beard threw a dupatta at her and told her that she is a kafir and not to not show up again in a pant suit or she would be dead. How is wearing a dupatta going make her more muslim than if she chose not to wear it?

    I am not advocating that dressing western is better. I am just trying to say that we should have freedom to wear whatever we want as long as it is decent.

  4. shahran says:

    Great Footage ,
    Here is a quiz, can someone guess the name of the person who is taking care of the camel in Blue Sherwani – ATP did a post on him as well. !!

  5. Humaira says:

    Very nice video. But the writeup seems a little too cutesy. Things were not that hunky dorry then either, nor are they as bad now. Actually, women in Pakistan are far better off today. And if you think that wearing sleeveless is the biggest problem you know nothing about Pakistan to begin with.

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