From 1996 when he formed PTI up until last year when he at long last became Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Imran Khan inspired millions of Pakistanis and friends of Pakistan with his impassioned, heartfelt and rousing speeches about what Pakistan could be as a state of its people rather than a state of its civilian elite.
Now that Imran Khan has gone from opposition to government, Pakistan at long last has a political leader who is charismatic, globally known and free from dynastic or criminal baggage. And yet, the Pakistani political apparatus has been slow in pushing Imran Khan’s personal image to the forefront of Pakistan’s international image.
Pakistan has suffered decades of black propaganda from its enemies who try to defame the national characteristics of the country at every possible opportunity. As Pakistan’s military leadership is all too aware of how so-called soft power mechanisms are used in contemporary hybrid warfare, it is all the more crucial for Imran Khan to win the hearts and minds of the world just as he won over a majority of Pakistani voters as the leader of PTI.
Imran Khan is certainly a hard working prime minister who unlike most of his luxury loving predecessors, has devoted himself to a life of tireless work for the nation both at home and abroad. Imran Khan has proved himself to be an excellent economic and cultural ambassador for Pakistan when abroad but this message needs to resonate beyond conference halls and the diplomatic table. Just as many countries in both the developing and developed worlds use public relations campaigns to promote investment, tourism and positive national brand recognition for their country, Pakistan must do the same and part of this campaign should naturally build on the fact that Pakistan’s Prime Minister is a celebrity who was much beloved in the wider world before he formally entered politics.
As such, Pakistan can stand to benefit from the creation and promotion of commercial videos in which Imran Khan can speak to the camera about the natural beauty, investment potential and hospitable cultural characteristics of Pakistan. Likewise, further videos can be made aimed a countries where cricket is popular that play up the relationship between Imran Khan’s cricket excellence and his political attitudes. Furthermore, posters and bill hoardings in major foreign cities can be erected portraying Imran Khan as the welcoming figure that he is when it comes to encouraging people from around the world to visit Pakistan.
Even states with lacklustre leaders promote their national image abroad as a means of attracting both added revenue to the national treasury as well as to overcome diplomatic obstacles during times of crisis. Although wars are scarcely the product of a popular vote, violent states will tread more carefully when committing acts of aggression against another nation if the would-be victim country has a positive reputation that would necessarily attract negative publicity towards an aggressor.
While India has spent substantial sums on its “Incredible India” campaign, Pakistan had been too preoccupied with fighting terrorists, including those funded and trained by India to consider promoting a positive image of the country. Now that the Army and ISI have substantially weakened the enemies of Pakistan, it will become increasingly important to make it so that an attack on Pakistan is condemned by the wider world rather than either ignored or even perversely celebrated.
The key to achieving this is by telling the world about the real Pakistan in a manner that is exciting, compelling and engaging to international audiences. Prime Minister Imran Khan is a supreme asset in this sense and as such, his charisma, non-political fame and ability to convey Pakistan’s true essence to English speaking audiences in particular should not be squandered.
Now is the time for a Positive Pakistan campaign that lets the world both see and eventually experience the atmosphere of Naya Pakistan.