The charm offensive undertaken by our diplomatic mission in the United Kingdom about ‘emerging Pakistan’ is epic and entrancing — and one wonders why the country’s officials had not thought of putting together such an initiative before. Using London’s iconic double-decker buses, the Pakistan High Commission is doing a fair bit to promote the country’s culture ahead of the 70th independence anniversary of Pakistan this year. Brand Pakistan, as unveiled in the bright hues of the country and presenting images of truck art, majestic mountain peaks, ancient heritage sites and monuments as well as rosy-cheeked women in traditional costumes, opens a window on its unexplored beauty to tourists. And the tens of hundreds riding these buses and the motorists and pedestrians milling about are bound to sit up and notice.
One hopes the same initiative can be replicated and introduced in more world capitals. This is just one small way to project the true image of the country.
In recent weeks, global development advisers have spoken of the absence of a proactive brand management strategy in Pakistan. These days it seems cultural influences play a huge part in working out sound economic strategies — almost as much as the financial and the economic aspects of a particular region. International investment also hinges on multiple factors including accentuating the positive and minimising the negative effects. Several other countries with image problems have been able to turn around their fortunes by engaging in a persuasive campaign to spruce up the way others perceive them. But for all these efforts to be successful and sustainable for Pakistan, greater public participation will be needed. We must also remember that image-building can only work when collective efforts are undertaken and when there is sufficient acknowledgement of existing problems as well as a desire and will to change that for the good of the country.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 30th, 2017.