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Friday, April 08, 2005

Softening hard realities ...

The advertisements are out. We need people to help project a SOFT (read 'Moderate & Enlightened') image of Pakistan. Much easier, of course, than developing ourselves into a moderate and enlightened nation.

There will be hordes of responses to the ads, I am sure. Ad & PR agencies do this all the time for their clients - presenting attractive images, extolling the benefits of Cigarettes and Guns, for example. Or telling us the wonderful things that we owe in life to Dow Chemicals. Forget that Dow was the supplier of deadly, skin-melting Napalm to the US Armed Forces during the Vietnam War. Dow, in fact, if memory serves me well, launched a campaign "to replace Dow's poor public perception with a softer image".

Of course, Pakistan is neither Tobacco, nor Guns; nor is it comparable to Dow. As a Pakistani, I'd be loathe to even consider such an analogy. Most of my countrymen are wonderful, tolerant, friendly, warm. Newsweek, I was reminded by Javed Jabbar only yesterday, had recently named Pakistan among 10 of the world's greatest countries, citing the warmth and hospitality meted out by us to the Afghan refugees as one example. True, no other country had ever given the opportunity for fleeing neighbours to spread and mingle with its residents, moving around with whatever little they had managed to carry in (including weapons and drugs).

Another view that supports our large-heartedness, in a direct comparison to our neighbours, can be found at alt.muslim But, the Newsweek article notwithstanding, the media abroad continues to recognize us mainly in terms of the image personified by a band of nutcases and criminals. One had hoped (perhaps only because hope lies eternal in the human breast, unwilling to learn from experience) that the present government would try and counter the antics of this band ... and not merely by offering soft images for external consumption but through concrete actions. Instead, we see the government bowing down on every issue, backing off at the slightest barking noise.

The recent return of the Religion Column in our passports (bound to be followed up with more insane demands by the victors) - and the inaction at the MMA's storming of a Marathon - point to what we can only hope is a curable weakness and not complicity.

Following the attack on the Marathon, not content to merely launch protests against the government for allowing what he considers to be an outrageous show of immodesty and anti-Islamic acts, we now have Maulana Fazlur Rahman (as reported in the press) threatening to resort to physical violence against citizens, especially women, who wish to participate in sports. This is, to be sure, not surprising, coming from someone who has been a passionate supporter of the Taliban - a group that had placed bans against many forms of sports, including the playing of football by men in shorts. However, asking for a ban on such stuff, reasonable or not, is not the same as threatening people. I am fairly certain if I threatened a citizen with violence, I would be (should be!) liable to having a case registered against me.

With incidents like this being reported - and frequently highlighted - in the international media (some of which is openly hostile to Pakistan and Muslims), no manner of manipulated soft imaging will help. A lot more positive imagery can be generated if the government rewarded exemplary punishments to such vigilantes. If that is too much to ask, the least it could do is stop it's turning on its own decisions whenever threats are made.

But let us not place the blame for this state of affairs entirely at the doorsteps of the government. How about sane citizens across the country raising their voices and joining protests against such outrages? What? There aren't sufficient numbers of us to make a difference? In that case, PR experts, you've got one helluva job to handle! In closing, here's what an activist friend, Naeem Sadiq (aka 'The Warrior') sent out by e-mail on the same subject today. It is reproduced below, without his permission, since he and I are hopefully on the same side of the copyright issue. If not, he can sue me and I shall happily settle out of court with a meal at Bundu Khan's. Over to you, Naeem:
Newspaper ads suggest that the government is spending huge sums of money in its campaign for projecting a soft image of Pakistan. Obviously it is far more difficult to project what does not exist. So here are five suggested pictures that would not just save this wasteful expenditure, but also project the true image of the government of Pakistan. 
1. 2000 'lathi bardar' mullahs stopping 20 school girls from participating in a school marathon. Background placards read "exercise haraam for females". 
2. A serious[-looking] Prime Minister signing approval of the RELIGION column [to be reintroduced] in Passports, with smiling mullahs in the background pushing another passport with yet another column for 'SECT'. 
3. Mukhtaran Mai giving a press conference [to say] that she has been denied justice for past 3 years. Rapists performing 'bhangra' in the background. 
4. Mullahs, drunk on 'soft drinks', breaking hotel furniture during a New Year Party. Weapon carrying mullahs destroying billboards in the background. 
5. An 'enlightened' Dr. Shazia, 'softly' stepping into a flight departing for Heathrow airport.

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Blogger Darwaish said...

How can we change people's minds by spending money on Ads???

Most of the ordinary people dont even give a shit about Musharaf's 'Moderate & Enlightened' idea's. They have more important things to worry about like food, education, jobs, security and so on which are supposed to be provided by their President who is sitting in his comfortable sofa with a cuban cigar in his mouth and saying .. "Petrol ki qeemat se aam admi bilkul mutasir nahi hota..Ordinary people are very happy n prosperous ..see they are buying so many Honda motorcycles" .. haha ;)

Dont you think the people who attacked girls marathon (forget abt if they were wrong or right) really believed that they were doing the right thing? ... otherwise nobody wants to get killed by police and go through that third degree stuff in jail...

How about spending some money on efforts to eliminate this "jahalat" (ignorance) that we have in our society?

And how about punishing those really responsible for misleading simple minded people and getting them killed in the name of religion? People like Fazal ur Rehman (who was having fun in Germany at that time) and Qazi? Instead of throwing a bunch of fools in jails who dont even know what they are doing...

*trying to calm down* ;)

09 April, 2005 03:56

Blogger Zakintosh said...

The saddest part IS that those who attacked the marathon really believed they were doing the right thing. The need of the time is to acknowledge how this society got to this stage (not too difficult: 70% illiterate; 30% - from among whom are those that lead the 70% - brought up on a disgusting, bigoted, hate-mongering curriculum) and take active/bold steps to rectify that.

09 April, 2005 05:20

Anonymous Naeem Sadiq said...

Thanks Zaheer.
I too agree for an out of court settlement. can we agree on something lighter than Bundu khan. Seems you are back to your eating irregularities.
Here is a signature dedicated to your great website:

There is no point in cleaning the mirror, when what we really need to do is to clean our own face

09 April, 2005 13:33

Blogger Sidhusaaheb said...

I see the same kind of trouble being caused by the extreme right-wing Hindutva brigade in India. Those who incite them do so for electoral gains, of course, rather than any personal beliefs or convictions.

I suspect that those who incite people to perform the despicable acts that you have written about, do so for similar reasons.

26 December, 2006 18:44


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