A friend just posted a note on his blog about a scandal brewing at a large bank in pakistan. Supposedly the bank managers posted a notice for all employees to comply with the "Western dress code" which meant not being able to wear the traditional Pakistani dress of Shalwar Kameez and/or trimming their beards. It was done to put up a 'professional image' for the Bank so its business would grow. In a divided society such as Pakistan, such an issue was sure to stir controversy and brew up a storm. It is important to state my personal opinion here that yes, it has often been quite a nuisance to show up to retain banking outlets and find grossness galore in how people dress and present themselves to customers.
However, the larger question still remains. Should the banks (and other service providing institutions in Pakistan such as hospitals, banks, even universities and schools) be able to enforce a dress code in order to infuse professionalism and discipline? And if yes, can they enforce it even if some parts of the society may consider such a dress code to be a slap in the face of local customs and traditions? Is there much that is said abut an organization and it sprofessionalism by what an employee wears? In the case of Pakistan, these discussions take on a different meaning all otgether. In a society where religion is so intimately tied up with society and even professional life, this may be an important discussion – one that has to be equally respectul towards the individual choices of the people involved (religious, cultural etc) as well as the professionalism and business savvy of their employers. Our greatest hero, Dr. AbdusSalam, wore a shalwar and a beard when he received his Nobel Prize in Physics (see picture), while our current head of state, General Musharraf, is equally comfortable and presentable in a modern wstern dress (see picture). Where should this society go next? And is this a totally pointless and useless discussion?