April 4, 2011

Branding Pakistan

Last week Pakistan got a bash right on its head for having no public diplomacy. It is always hard to speak for a country which does not speak for itself. "A Sinking Ship"--this is how Pakistan's public diplomacy was described by a group of our PD class.
We live in a world of images that are created mostly by the mass media. It is in the nature of the mass media to equate negativity with news. Positive things seldom make news, especially in this age of war on terror. People did not contribute generously to relief funds in the wake of devastating floods in Pakistan last year because it has been branded negatively by the Western media.
There is a litany of charges against Pakistan, but so far its government has not felt the need to engage with the people of other countries, especially the West, and tell them Pakistan's side of the story. In Pakistan, it is the extremists and terrorists who speak loudly with their daily actions. When other countries in the region--India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka--were getting a positive press for hosting the Cricket World Cup, Pakistan had been in the press for the negative reasons: suicide attacks, bomb blasts, assassinations and victimization of minorities.
If local newspapers are the face of a country, it is never rosy for Pakistan when I read them daily. The state of Pakistan seems to have receded, while terrorists and extremists shriek out at the world. This is how they brand their country as the government has fallen into a gentle slumber.

1 comment:

  1. I think you make a keen observation here--if the Pakistani government doesn't engage with the rest of the world in a meaningful way, and establish two-way communication, then extremists will speak for them and become the voice--and the public image the world will have--of the country.

    I wish there were easy answers for this country situation, but given the history of the internal and external conflicts, I think it's going to take quite a while to sort things out, and Pakistan's PD will continue to suffer until the country really begins to change course through better relations with its neighbors, and support of moderate and dissenting points of view.

    There may be lessons for Pakistan as political reform advances in the Middle East...? Another obvious model of stability and prosperity in the neighborhood is India, provided that Pakistan and India can begin to have a more constructive dialogue. I'd like to think that there are constructive ways forward!