People rarely get the whole story about Pakistan. In the global imagination, our nation is perceived as a filthy, dangerous place fueled by violence and hatred. Hollywood films like “Homeland” reinforce these stereotypes while ignoring all the wonderful, beautiful things about our homeland. In response, many well meaning individuals have embarked on an effort to promote a #PakPositive image for the country. While well intentioned, this effort has an unintended side effect which is actually self-defeating.
Many of the supposedly #PakPositive stories are relatively harmless. World records for giant human flags are interesting and give a patriotic feeling. Others, though, seem a little desperate. Highlighting the fact that Maleeha Lodhi is the “first Pakistani woman” to hold the position of Permanent Representative to the UN ignores the fact that this is a position appointed by Pakistan. Isn’t promoting our willingness to appoint a career diplomat to a diplomatic position even though she’s a woman setting the bar a little bit low for #PakPositive?
Worst, though, is when #PakPositive is used as an excuse to avoid dealing with the problems that plague our nation. Malala Yousafzai was targeted by militants for wanting an education. Despite being nearly murdered, she never gave up and has been recognized by the world for her courage. She has been given large cash awards, and has donated that money to improving schools in Pakistan and Gaza. This is something we as a nation should be very proud of, but instead she is defamed by many Pakistanis for talking openly about Pakistan’s problems.
Unfortunately, this attitude has become part of our political and diplomatic strategy. The following Tweets by Taha S Siddiqui perfectly illustrates the problem:
The diplomat was 100 per cent incorrect. We do not need “positivity” at a regional seminar on radicalization, we need solutions. Otherwise the respected diplomat should seek a job with PTDC.
There is nothing wrong with promoting positive stories. When our daughter is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, we have the right to be proud. However, there is a difference between being proud of our achievements and ignoring our problems. Terrorism, extremism, polio, lack of education – these are not a drunk uncle who can be hidden away in the back of the house. They are serious problems, and they deserve to be treated seriously. Every nation has problems. It is how a nation faces those problems that determine the nation’s image. If we want to improve our image in the world, we need to be seen as taking our problems seriously, not trying to sweep them under a rug.