The four shoemakers at Hazro Kohati Chappal are racing against time to fill the orders that are to be delivered before Eid.
The shop, located on the main Talagang Road in Chakwal, near the General Post Office, was established by Ghulam Qadir in 1966 and is now run by his grandson, Khalid Mehmood. It specialises in traditional Kohati chappal.
“A decade ago, I thought the demand for these shoes will decrease by every year, as the younger generation did not seem to be interested in traditional footwear. But the situation has turned around the last couple of years and demand for them has increased due to Imran Khan wearing these shoes,” Mr Mehmood said.
The chappals are made of pure leather and has been made in various parts of Pakistan for decades. In Quetta, they are called the Quetta chappal, Peshawari chappal in Peshawar and Dera chappal in Dera Ghazi Khan.
Since the owner of Afghan Chappal in Peshawar’s Namak Mandi made the Kaptan Chappal, a special pair with little alterations to the soles, and gifted them to Imran Khan when he wed Reham Khan in Jan 2015, the traditional footwear became instantly popular among the youth.
The Kohati chappals are the most sought after. The brand has its origin in Kohat, but the ones made in Chakwal and Attock are more famous than the one actually made in Kohat.
These shoes were popular among Pakhtun youth and elders and were worn by feudal lords and politicians in Punjab.
However, since Haji Nooruddin Shinwar, owner of Afghan Chappal in Peshawar’s Namak Mandi, made a special pair, with little alterations to the soles, named them Kaptan Chappal and gifted them to Imran Khan when he wed Reham Khan in Jan 2015, the traditional footwear became instantly popular among the youth.
“I wanted to wear the shoes before as well but Imran Khan lost the 2013 elections. This Eid, I will be wearing the Kaptan Chappal along with white shalwar kameez, as my leader does,” says Arsalan Tariq.
However, many, including PTI leaders in Chakwal, who like Kohati chappal, think the Kaptan Chappal design is not as good as others.
“The Kaptan Chappal has a tyre sole which cannot be compared to a leather sole,” a PTI leader said.
“I prefer to get mine made in Attock where they cost Rs8,000 per pair,” he added.
Mohammad Saleem, alias Seema who has been making Kohati chappal for four decades, also thinks the Kaptan Chappal does not have the best design.
“It is true that the design got popular due to Imran Khan but many in Chakwal do not prefer the design due to its tyre sole. Leather has its own charm,” he said.
However, the Kaptan Chappal is the most sought-after design in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Mujtaba Ayub, who runs a footwear business with his father in Peshawar’s Saddar area, says they sell the Kaptan Chapal for Rs6,000 a pair.
Mr Ayub markets the shoes on social media and other businesses have also taken to social media to market the shoes.
However, the shoemakers of Chakwal and Attock lag behind in online marketing as they cannot operate social media sites on their own and say their children are not interested in the business.
“The hallmark of Chakwal and Talagang has been zari khairi and khussa but the demand for them is declining as they are too costly,” Khalid Mehmood said.
A shoe maker in Karsal, Ameer Hussain, who has been making khussa for four decades, says khussa and zari khairi of high quality have been replaced with low quality, machine made shoes.
Originally published in Dawn, August 21st, 2018