If you’ve been in a situation where you’ve had to introduce yourself and what country you belong to, to someone outside Pakistan, you know what reactions the name ‘Pakistan’ invokes, most of the time.
On the other hand, if you were in a similar situation before 9/11, the reactions were markedly different. Most people didn’t know what or even where Pakistan was and were open to forming ideas about what made this country special. It’s no news that this changed drastically.
How does a country fight back to right its negative image then? The usual way is to establish impressions that challenge the existing perception using art, tourism, fashion, and sports.
Show Your Talent
Showing yourself to the world through a young bowler who is admired for his technique and speed, a writer who makes one empathize with a Pakistani protagonist, music that transcends the boundaries of language, or breathtaking landscapes that entice one to board a plane all work towards fighting unfavorable views.
Suddenly, Pakistan is much more than a ‘dangerous country always making headlines in all ways distressing’. The vast talent and gifts that the country is blessed with help other people take Pakistan out of the box labeled ‘unsafe’.
There is no doubt that things are changing. Opinions are being defied and confronted on diverse battlegrounds. Pakistanis are using film, literature, music, sports, and tourism to present a truer picture of the country.
From Sharmeen Obaid’s win at the Academy Awards to the Time magazine rating Burqa Avenger as one of the most Influential Fictional Characters of 2013, from Coke Studio winning millions of hearts across the globe to Pakistani authors receiving prestigious literary awards, Pakistani artists are successfully altering perspectives.
Similarly, Pakistan’s magnificent terrain and diverse culture, unexplored and exotic, is attracting many foreign tourists. The PTDC recorded a 30% increase in international tourism since 2013, and Pakistan was ranked on top by British Backpacker Society among twenty top travel destinations for 2018.
That leaves sports. As a newly independent state, Pakistan had competed with much success but over the years, lack of funds and substandard facilities have caused us to fall behind other nations. Renowned for producing legendary cricketers, the zenith of our national team was winning the ICC World Cup in 1992. Then there is hockey and squash where Pakistan is always remembered as one of the greats of the games. Furthermore, Pakistani athletes have won a total of ten medals in the Olympics (eight of those from men’s field hockey) and we have not won a single medal at the games since 1992 Barcelona.
However, this trend too is now slowly changing and more money and attention is being placed on sports. With sportsmen and women competing abroad, restructuring of national tournaments, and new facilities and equipment being provided, there has been an overall improvement in the country.
Despite the country’s problems back home including the cricket ban and political and infrastructural problems, Pakistan is now slowly but surely getting back on the world map for sports.
Coca-Cola’s FIFA Football World Cup Trophy Tour
Take for example that for the first time ever, Pakistan is included in the Coca-Cola’s FIFA Football World Cup Trophy Tour this year. This is a proud moment not only for football enthusiasts but for the entire country as football’s most coveted prize visiting Pakistan will greatly boost a softer image of the nation on the global stage.
The entire world will be watching us on 3rd February when the World Cup trophy arrives in Pakistan. Moments like these could go a long way in portraying a better image of Pakistan to the world. It will encourage international sports athletes and boards to visit Pakistan and compete in different sports with our national teams.
The beauty of investing in sports is that it not only advances Pakistan’s reputation as a peaceful, progressive country, but it also plays a vital role in youth development. Initiatives like the Trophy Tour, also an encouragement to the young talented athletes who want to pursue sports as their careers, should be considered a beginning.
We have a long way to go and much more needs to be done. But every positive step counts and the World Cup trophy coming to Pakistan is most definitely one.