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Pakistan and it's image abroad

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    Pakistan and it's image abroad

    Pakistan and it's image abroad. How do non-Pakistanis view Pakistan?

    The ugly Pakistani —Kamran Shafi

    It is time the Pakistani State and all of us pulled in the same direction. It does no good for one part of us to talk down to the other for we are all part of the same whole. But talk down we do

    According to Mr Khalid Hasan’s latest ‘Postcard’ (The worst not over: it just began, Daily Times, February 15, 2004) Mushahid Hussain, then Minister for Information in the heavily mandated government of the great genius and thinker Nawaz Sharif, once suggested that small models of the Chaghai hill, whose innards were blown to smithereens while testing our bum, should be handed to every foreign tourist upon arrival/departure at Pakistan’s airports as souvenirs. Surprise, surprise!

    Well, I am not surprised at all, for such is the impudence of our ruling elites that even if there is any good sense in some of them, they would say and do the most bizarre things to please those they were beholden to in the ‘agencies’, those who wet-nurse them and are their be-all and end-all: their godfathers. ‘Agencies’ which, as we have oft seen, most specially in the present embarrassment of the nuclear proliferation tamasha (for my non-Pakistani readers, a not very easy word to translate, but which broadly means ‘to-do’) are inept and inefficient and fat and lazy and jingoistic and bullying.

    What else, then, should Pakistan’s image in the world be but what it is? That of a country which is peopled by half-brutes (Yahoos, indeed!); that of a country so unsure of itself that it worships Dalda ghee tin models of its missiles and fibre-glass models of the poor old hill it used to demonstrate its nuclear prowess, and which according to one quite callous hack ‘rumbled’ when the explosion went off, small models of which would have been handed out to its guests by its chief Public Relations manager; that of a country which, despite much evidence of its own so-called ‘leaders’ shooting it in the head, blames all the bad mention it quite deservedly gets abroad onto this lobby or that, particularly Indian and Jewish.

    But, forgetting individual acts of monumental foolishness for a moment, whilst the Land of the Pure has had a bad name, a very bad name abroad for many years, ‘Israeli and Indian lobbies’ notwithstanding, it will not be an exaggeration to say that it has never been worse than it is now. For, on top of all that is good and great about our society: religious extremism; violence against minorities; honour killings of women; kidnappings for ransom in which even ministers of the realm are not spared and other such, in the ‘moreover’ category we are now nuclear proliferators too!

    Let me, for the sake of my non-Punjabi readers, explain what the ‘moreover’ in quotes means. As the story goes, a Sikh who ran a corner shop, probably in Tooting Bec, got into a slanging match with a fellow, but white, Brit, who understandably had more of a handle on English swear-words. After the Sikh had exhausted his entire vocabulary in English abuse he shouted: “And moreover teri (letting loose a choice and very colourful Punjabi swear-word)!” The latest feather in our caps comes in the ‘moreover’ category because whilst Pakistanis going about killing other Pakistanis weaker than themselves, such as tribal jirgas (councils of elders!!) killing their own women may revolt people in other societies, it does not affect them as directly as nuclear proliferation.

    However, whilst the loosely and quite casually run Pakistani State will do what it will to bring itself, and, willy-nilly, the rest of us into disrepute, it does nothing proactive to try to improve the country’s image, depending instead on half-baked, half-assed, knee-jerk reactions to bad news. Instead of a sustained and well-planned media effort in which its diplomats and media managers are provided the means, such as that thing called money (which buys lunches and other goodies for example); instead of providing sufficient funds to the concerned mission, Pakistani governments have traditionally depended on foreign lobbyists, retaining them at great cost to the exchequer and getting virtually nothing back, other than, perhaps, news of parliamentary legislative business a day earlier than it is printed in the press. Which, incidentally, could easily be got from Hansards in the UK, and the equivalent record-keeping authority in the US congress for free.

    Realising the ineffectiveness of retained lobbyists while posted in our High Commission in London 1994 to 1996 I wrote reams of notes to the government suggesting that we use alternative methods of lobbying such as hiring lobbyists on a ‘need to’ basis. For example, if the High Commission needed to open communications with, say, the opposition Labour Party it could hire the services of a Labour-friendly lobbyist. (In the event, we had excellent relations with the Labour Party because a great number of Pakistani-Brits were leading supporters of the party at the constituency level).

    As another, if it wanted to arrange a great big reception for representatives of the financial world it could hire the services of one friendly with the city and so on. No one listened, of course, and whilst privately a lot of senior officials in the FO agreed with me no one would commit himself on paper.

    What, then, is to be done about this state of affairs? What should the State do to improve the country’s image abroad? For starters, could we have slightly less of ‘good’ and more of ‘effective’ governance in the country, please? Next, could the government centralise what it says here i.e., reduce the number of mouths that voice opinions on subjects they know nothing about? Finally, could our missions and their officials be reinforced with more funds? The present rates of monthly entertainment allowance would not allow the press wallah, say, to take six people out to lunch in London, let alone to a dinner for three with the necessary accoutrements!

    Let me end by saying that more than anything else, it is time the Pakistani State and all of us pulled in the same direction. It does no good for one part of us to talk down to the other for we are all part of the same whole. But talk down we do, like nearly three weeks ago when expressing my extreme anguish at the unholy mess created by the completely thoughtless and foolish pronouncements on the proliferation issue by everyone and Charlie’s aunt, a former very well regarded chief of one of our premier ‘agencies’ laughed in my face and said, to the incredulity of others present there: “You are just a scare-monger. It will all settle down, be over, in a week.” Indeed!

    Kamran Shafi is a free-lance columnist

    I don't think the writer is doing any favors either. On one hand he's critcizing the government for a knee-jerk reaction for midhandling the overseas media management, on the other, he's grossly generalizing and mis-representing the facts such as tribal jirgas killing women. How many events can he really quote from teh last ten years ? The sad thing is that a lot of these writers have failed themselves in projecting the positive image of the country. They can't just blame the government. This is one field where they need to learn from Indian news papers and authors, the way they are shrewd about promoting indian policies, and interests.