Fashion lovelies defy Taliban in Pakistan's Peshawar

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Days after bombers tried to storm the US consulate, models defied the Taliban to sashay down a catwalk in Pakistan's troubled city Peshawar, flashing navels and exposing shoulders.

Organisers told AFP that the private fashion show, arranged by a private university in the northwestern metropolis of 2.5 million, was intended as a stress reliever in a city that has been hard hit by bomb and suicide attacks.

"The situation is very tense. The atmosphere is very stressful and we arranged this show to bring some entertainment and as an opportunity for young people to show their capabilities," Mohammad Yasir, an organiser, told AFP.

"It was a great success. More people came than we expected," he said.

Trussed up in glamorous confections of gauze and silk, western-style skirts slashed to the knee, towering gladiator heels and millinery, male and female models marched down the runway, smouldering and pouting late Wednesday.

There were bare shoulders, trousers hanging from the hips and tops slashed to well-toned navels - a far cry from the heavy veils, baggy trousers and body-hiding shirts favoured by the city's women in public.

Strict security was in force for the event at Deans shopping plaza in the heavily guarded and upmarket garrison-controlled central area of Peshawar where Indian Bollywood tracks and western pop blasted out of loudspeakers.

The show took place just 15 minutes' drive from the American consulate - targeted Monday by Islamist militants armed with guns, grenades and suicide car bombs who killed five security officials.

"I am really happy that the fashion show was successfully held in this stressful environment of Peshawar," Maheen Raza, a dress designer told AFP.

While some models and designers came from the relatively moderate capital Islamabad, others live in Peshawar, one of the most conservative big cities in the country where fashion shows are rare.

The city lies on the edge of Pakistan's tribal belt - branded by Washington a global headquarters of Al-Qaeda and the most dangerous place on Earth, where a secretive US drone war is targeting top Islamist militant commanders.

The US consulate attack was the most audacious this year in Pakistan, where insecurity, particularly in the northwest, has raised concerns in the United States as Washington steps up the fight in Afghanistan and against Al-Qaeda.

Pakistan's Taliban claimed responsibility for the consulate attack, saying it was to avenge the US drone attacks and threatened further assaults on Americans.

The United Nations announced a two-day closure of its offices in Peshawar, citing security fears following a US consulate attack.

Around 3,200 people have been killed in suicide and bomb attacks over the last three years in Pakistan, blamed on militants opposed to the US alliance.