Underground dance parties push the boundaries


Women in short skirts and men with gelled hair bump and grind on a dance floor as a disc jockey pumps up the volume.
The air is thick with illicit smoke and shots of hard liquor are being passed around. Couples cuddle in a lounge.
This is not Saturday night at a club in New York, London or Paris.
It is the secret side of Pakistan, a Muslim nation often described in the West as a land of bearded, Islamic hardmen and repressed, veiled women.
Starting in the 1980s, Pakistan has been drifting towards a more conservative interpretation of Islam that has reshaped the political landscape, fuelled militancy and cowed champions of tolerance into silence.
But the country remains home to a large wealthy and Westernised elite that, in private, lives very differently.
Every weekend, fashion designers, photographers, medical students and businessmen gather at dozens of parties in Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore to push social boundaries in discreet surroundings that would horrify, and enrage, advocates of the stricter brand of Islam.
“This is just epic,” said Numair Shahzada, bobbing his head to the beat at a party in a farmhouse outside Islamabad as fitness instructors moonlighting as bouncers looked on. “The light and smoke show is phenomenal.”
Young men and women mix freely, dancing, talking or drinking. Some curl up together in quiet areas.
Although alcohol is prohibited in the country, many have brought their own liquor. Whisky is carried in paper bags and vodka is disguised in water bottles arranged along the dance floor.
The party-goers form only a tiny minority of the country’s 180 million people, but overall, Pakistan is not repressive.
Women can drive, are enrolled in universities and have played prominent roles in politics. Unmarried men and women can interact without risking the wrath of religious police.
People from its most populous province, Punjab, are renowned for their exuberance.
But a conservative form of Islam is chipping away at the tolerance.
A few hours drive from Islamabad’s party circuit, parts of remote tribal regions have fallen under the sway of hardline Taliban militants, who dream of toppling the US-backed government and creating a society where revellers would face flogging, or worse.“Men and women who dance together are damned by God. Whenever we see such displays of vulgarity we will definitely make them a target,” said a senior Taliban commander.

Creeping Conservatism

While the vast majority of Pakistanis abhor the Taliban’s violence, there are many who share their belief that Islam should be Pakistan’s guiding force. Religious parties, which do poorly at the polls but exert considerable sway over public debate, believe Islam should govern all spheres of life.
“It’s so messed up,” said Myra, a 23-year-old Pakistani who has dyed her hair reddish-brown. “You see the servants and the drivers at the parties watching you and you wonder what kind of a person they think you are.”
To avoid prying eyes, the kind of alcohol-fuelled blow-outs enjoyed by Myra and her friends are held in lonely farm-houses in the outskirts of Islamabad and other cities, or in affluent neighbourhoods behind high walls.
Organisers charge on average a $60 entry fee, an amount most Pakistanis earn in a month.
Rafia, petite with long, black hair and wearing tight jeans and a low-cut black blouse, is a regular on the party scene.
She frowns on women who carry secret cell phones unmonitored by their parents and wear revealing outfits under conservative dress that come off before getting on the dance floor.
“You can either be God-fearing or you can party,” she said, taking a drag on a marijuana joint at a recent rave.
“I don’t pray regularly and I usually stick to my fast. But at the end of the day, I don’t say I am a very religious person.”
Not everyone agrees.
Bina Sultan, 40, an attractive fashion designer, showcases nude paintings and topless male models in shows. She also wears a silver pendant engraved with a verse from the Koran. “People think I am shameless but I am actually very religious,” she said at her studio, peppering her sentences with “jaani”, Urdu for darling, while chain smoking. “My faith is very strong. But everything I do is between my God and me.”

Lonely Liberal

Conservatism began sweeping through Pakistan during the military dictatorship of General Mohammad Zia ul-Haq in the 1980s under a drive to Islamise the state.
Zia’s policies are widely blamed for a creeping culture of intolerance that has further isolated liberals.
In the growing climate of fear, the space for liberal voices is shrinking.
Pakistani rapper Adil Omar, who attends weekend parties, pokes fun of the Taliban and rising conservatism in his songs. But he never goes too far.
“A lot of people seem to be torn and seem to have an identity crisis,” said Omar, who wears the traditional flowing shirt and baggy trousers. His elaborate forearm tatoo featuring a semi-naked woman and a unicorn has drawn fire on his Facebook page from some fans who see it as an offence to Islam. “I am careful not to give any opinions regarding religion on the record,” he said, adding: “I don’t want some crazy person chopping off my head.”


  1. Its so embarrassing that the country I take pride in being from is ruining its Islamic image.Right now there is a Film Fare awards are going on my Dish Net work ,on Pakistani Express channel. Which is beyond my comprehension,why they are showing this? My country that I left 25 years ago,is changed to this extent, I feel ashamed of those farm house parties,where is the police and the government ?

  2. Pakistan is an Islamic country only verbally and you find here every sort of bad things like killing of innocent people,fuking,kidnaping,looting,cheating,allegations on each other without witnessing any facts,backbiting and other uncountable bad habits and actions which a gentle or religious person avoids are freely going on in Pakistan without any SHARM WA HIYA.Where we are going O ALLAH HUM SAB KO RAHE MUSTAQEEM PE SABIT QADAM RAKH AND PROTACT OUR PAKISTAN FROM ALL THESE BLOODY EVIL`S FUNCTIONS AND ACTIONS AAMEEN.BILLIONS OF BILLIONS LAANAT ON SHAITAN AND IT`S FOLLOWERS.PAKISTAN ZINDABAD ISLAM ZINDABAD.

  3. We want this country just like any other country of the world. Those who want this place back in the years of G Zia, should shift to waziristan.

    • People dont know how to enjoy life and want to live under strict Islamic law, then pls pack your stuff and move to waziristan.

    • dear ye media ko takalif hoti hai k hum azaadi se sans kiun nai lay rahay.. apni merzi say kuch kiun ni ker rhay.. dunya chaand pay phounch chuki hai aur ye kameenay bjaye iss k koi tehqiqi kam kerain humari ee toh main peray rehtay hain…

  4. Embarrassing & shameful ,this is not my Pakistan.Where are we heading,where is the government and the police

  5. Pakistan was made for these dumb ass peoples to enjoy life on aids from foreign countries .Since its independance it is a dependant state .

  6. @ Iffat, its none of your business. Let the people enjoy.. dont try to impose your views on others.
    @ They are not causing any harm to you or your family….
    @ Big deal!!!come on guys live and let live!

    This is so typical mind set … nothing happens, live and let live, enjoy !

    Let's see what Allah(swt) says,


    [ When they disregarded the warnings that had been given them,
    because they were defiantly disobeying.] Quran(Al-Araf, 7:165)

    * Now try telling Allah(swt) …. let us live and enjoy !
    ** REPENT O People, Repent.

    O Allah forgive us our sins and forgive this nation who is hell bent in committing the same sins as the case of old generations. O Allah, we seek refuge from your punishment and from you anger.

    * May Allah(swt) save those who forbade evil, Aameen Ya Arhamar Rahemeen, Aameen

  7. Its a pity that a country which was created on the basis of Islam is now inhabited by rapists,alcoholics and messed up people who think being liberal will get them noticed!

    All those people who feel sad and dejected after reading this article,wait and pray!..Allah is watching them…

  8. The people which are doing such activities mostly having black money,or not paying tax according to law.

  9. shame shame!!!!!!!! the government must ban such parties… it is against islam… they must be thrown into jail ..very sad this is..

  10. agree to every single word of yours…. none of my business what people do, but ''dramatisation'' of rape scenes, prostitution on TV and now glorifying this crap,,,, I dont know who is behind this ''free media''.

  11. If they are doing it privatly, they are respecting the ethics of majority…but u sir, the writer…u are the one spreading nuisence and words of vurgularity..I wish you a moral mind with ethical thinking to wwrite about!

  12. All this happening as per desire of jewish lobby.they r totally holding world economy .
    we r all living on income based on intrest which iz totally haram .follower of interst systen iz in sexual relation with his mother as islam.
    elite class all over the world iz captured by these dajjal s son.
    they r paving the way for dajjal

  13. O all of the jewish lobby nd some commenters listen carefully.
    i knw u r in fear that if muslims will get in power they will bring actual revolution.
    as said by non muslim tht if Hazrat (Umer r.a) ruled for more ten years there had been no non muslim in the world.
    u r using these ways in muslim countries for spreading unreal face of islam.bt u r planings r temporary.u hv no land in the world jews.
    my request to the jewishs is tht please stop it .wrong iz temporary.be muslim nd be dominant in future wid us

  14. Well iffat i absolutely agree what we do as pakistani’s most of things are shameful but jahan away ka awa bigra ho wahan parties ka issue nahi hai, darmiyani baat nahi chale gi agar islam ko follow karna hai to completely in all respect and in true spirit. Aaj agar PML N kahe k hum khilafat ka elan kar rae hain sab se zyada tumhain problem ho ga kyun ke tum apna khubsoorat chehra chupana pasand nahi karo gi. Agar justice ho to sab theek ho jae ga, thana, kachehri, siyasat aur karobar main kya kuch ho raha hai ham sab jante hain. Jab justice ho gi to sabhi cheezain theek ho jaen gi. lET us live and enjoy to the best we can.

  15. Well… Personally I deny categorically that Pakistan is a Islamic state.. Pakistan is not an islamic state, it is state where tyrant such as army, ruthless politician and criminals rule on the innocent and poor population.

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