War narratives/ Branding Pakistan

Is it possible to sell a country as a commercial product? Obviously it is. The process applies to consumer goods, people, famous brands, why not for a country?

But what happens if that country is called Pakistan? They have spoken recently in Islamabad at a conference organized by Brand Pakistan (http://brandpakistan.pk ).

Pakistan is a country of incomparable natural beauty: lakes, mountains, a rich fauna. And of course fascinating archaeological sites (such as the city of Multan, just as an example, and Lahore that winds), and mix different cultures, colorful festivals, hockey matches and bullfights … .So some respects it is understandable the desire of many to dream for Pakistan a tourism policy that will help to provide a different and positive image of the country.

Yes, very interesting indeed. But how do you build a brand attractive to tourists when, in order: it’s hard to get a tourist visa, it is impossible to get around in the natural parks of the North, the risk of being involved in an attack by chance is high in some areas. More simply, you can not drink a glass of beer so easily or work hand in hand without being looked at as Martians. Frankly, why a visitor should be tempted by a trip to Pakistan? While I understand, I repeat, must be frank and say that after 9/11 and before that with the statement of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the perception and beyond – the everyday life I would say – of the countries where they live, this is a disaster, because the identification of every citizen with terrorists is widespread and generalised. A strong and vivid image in the world, could not be differently. And in this, the government certainly plays a part, not facilitating the delivery of a positive image of the country abroad: just look at the newspapers and the TV to study the reaction to what happened in recent months in Europe has had a reaction in many cases supporting the terrorist actions, and the response to the attacks of the fundamentalists to the same population is limited to a first day of condemnation without some consequences.

At the same time, Pakistan is strong in business: exports fruit, leather, cotton, import technology and secondary assets. Many foreigners work and do business in the country and / or using national mediators. I am convinced that the best branding that Pakistan can offer should be based on the promotion of business, imports and exports and in time hope for an improvement of the internal condition and resulting in very slow transformation of the overall perception of the country.

But there is an interesting point that emerged during the conference, and that seems to me essential to the construction of “national branding”. One of the speakers placed in that context a crucial question: in order to be credible and to promote our country to play creatively – he said – we must be proud of ourselves. We are proud to be Pakistanis?

Question not at all easy. My impression, which gets stronger over time, is that the country I live in is weakened by a strong sense of dissatisfaction, leading to contempt of those women and men, and this is a result of many factors: internal instability , poverty, general distrust in government, ignorance, extreme difficulty in interpersonal relationships. There is no man that I meet in Pakistan that does not keep me to immediately specify “I am not like other Pakistanis.” Apart from the fact that this is not true – but of course I speak as foreign – this strikes me greatly differ by the profound identity of belonging to their land. As Italian, I’m from a country full of contradictions, with the absence of clear legal in many sectors of society, corruptors and corrupted, and so on, but I would not dream to tell anyone: I’m not like the other Italians.

So what is the imagination that dwells in the hearts of Pakistanis? The dream to leave the country, thinking that if they can get rich it will make them more free, while remaining prisoners of family relationships that weigh like chains.

If you are not happy to be born in Pakistan, if you are quick to say the first foreigner to meet to impress him favorably and distract her/him from his stereotypes that are not “like everyone else”, it becomes really difficult to promote a different image and far away from what inhabits the heart.