Pakistan’s Image Insecurity and The ‘Aal Iz Well’ Syndrome


As written before:

‘Since the onset of Pakistan’s engagement in the War on Terror, the country nosedived in its entirety; politically, socially and economically. Not only was this unfortunate plunge a harbinger of possibly, the worst of times for it but heralded the introduction of a gamut of negative stereotypes in relation to Pakistan and its citizens.

Largely owing to the almost-routinely involvement of Pakistan or any individual with even a faint connection to it in incidents or reports of terrorism, the spread of these stereotypes fixed its image as ‘The most dangerous place on Earth’’

This particular instance had consequential effects on both sides; of the Pakistanis and the rest of the world.

Concerning the latter, [ for most of them ] Pakistan’s picture became what was a hodge-podge of stereotypes and words such ranging from terrorism, terrorists to poverty, illiteracy and bloodshed.

For the Pakistanis, grivieances were nurtured of being portrayed in the single shade of negativity in international media, an obejction or grouse justifed at times, while many ventured and are venturing to show the ‘real’ image [ As said in the Pakistani lingo ] and positive angle of their country.

With each passing day, as the worsening of Pakistan’s state ensured its quick descent into chaos with degeneration in every quarter of the country – certain approaches developed amongst the people – one of them associated with ‘insecurity of image’, after being swung onto a somewhat defensive edge by the quick spin of events involving the country.

This evolved into an attitude relating to ‘Hear no evil, Speak no evil, See no Evil’ [ Which in some interpretations, ‘is used to refer to those who deal with impropriety by looking the other way, refusing to acknowledge it, or feigning ignorance.’ ]. Many Pakistanis chose to shut their ears, close their eyes and sew their lips to silence when it came to the ills in the society and country. This has eventually lead to a self-concoted national ignorance, that has inevitably given birth to a sociteal conspiracy of silence.


As the numbers who chose to immerse themselves in this practise grew, a culture of shame, conspiracy theories, denialism and dogmatism flourished with it due to which any pinching incidents or facts that proffered chances for clamant introspection were tossed away by the dismissive wave of a hand after much nugatory tub-thumping and dramatic statements on the media by individuals.

With the PTA reporting over 22 million Pakistani internet users, which is about 12% of the total 180 million population, this concept and societal mindset slid onto the virtual world.

Plenty of these Pakistanis have been vociferating their opinion that no news regarding the country should be posted or discussed on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter [ where many have friends from other countries ] that sharpens the features of the poor picture that lots hold globally of Pakistan. This is the extent of the ‘image insecurity’.

One wonders how would the prevention of posting unfavourable Pakistanis news [ Say, cases of the treatment of minorities here, rape victims etc ] on these sites from reaching a handful of foreign people help in this digital age and era of electronic media where even a minor happenings are broadcasted or published through hundreds of channels and sites to millions all around the world within split seconds of their occurance.

Also, as of yet Pakistan has, in fact – no image at all. And it is food for thought, that if social networking sites could be tools for revolution, can’t they be instruments to stir a societal change? It is defined, that societies are the footing for nations that inhabit countries. Any change within the society will affect the nation which will inevitably reform/rebuild Pakistan’s perception positively that will come in its ripple effect.

But for that, the bizarre approach needs to abandoned. Pakistanis must shed the guise of ignorance and keeping mum while being cognizant about plagues and cultural malaises.

The people must be made aware of the innumberable and untold stories and issues stinging the core of Pakistan’s culture, society, politics and nation. They must be awakened from this sleep of dormancy that has been prolonged for too long a time, 64 years.

Debate should be initiated about them at all forums [ The internet, the streets, national media or at homes ] after this.
One of the reasons for the palpable and glaringly low tolerance in Pakistan is the absence of debate and arguments among people, which has helped to foster and instill a proclivity in each person for sheer insularity and unwillingness to hear opposing views – that if heard, are answered by profiling [ labelling someone as a RAW/MOSSAD/CIA Agent or a ‘liberal facist’ ] , judgements and fatwas rather than refuted by facts.

The stimulation of discussions will so, instill gradually a sense of open-mindedness along with stirring people to comprehend the situations, think, measure their words and then freely express their opinions.

Debates might also commence into finding solutions for the problems they are based on and individual efforts may be encouraged to apply those. Joint efforts may also be made. And the more the pandemonium and clamor of the people is, the more it is bound to reach the corridors of power and ensure decisive action.

There is an idiom in Urdu; Kabotar ka billi ko dekh kar ankhein band kar lena.
‘The shutting of eyes by the pigeon as he spots the cat’.

Some expound it as one’s turning away after seeing a difficulty. This might just be what the aforementioned Pakistanis are doing.

By averting one’s gaze from a problem [ Not accepting the existence of or talking about it ], it does not dissolve it. It needs to be faced. Pakistanis need to yield the need to identify conundrums, national dilemmas and social contaminations for only when they are recognized as problems, does one seek a remedy to be extricated from them.

The lean line separating resilience from indifference also needs to be accentuated and compreheneded. Pakistanis have begun to dwell more into the realm of the latter than the former. To be struck by bomb attacks, blasts and natural calamities and again get back and continue life with the same vigour is resilience but to see myriad cases of rape, discrimination against minorities, a selective genocide against the Baloch and yet remain silent – is shameful apathy.

Being lulled into a state of false security and satisfaction by not raising your voice against wrongdoings, thus they are not brought into the light of scrutiny and attention as they derserve to be, will only stoke the fire of such perversions and injustices for those committing it would certainly be basking in the knowledge of the nation’s propensity to remain indifferent towards them.

And as Sana Saleem wrote in one of her ever-brilliant articles;

‘The mindset that believes that acknowledging our issues is threatening to our ‘image’. What good is an image, other than deceiving ourselves, is another question altogether.’

Pakistanis have acquiesced with whatever has swept the country for too long and it has cost them too much.

Or as Ayaz Amir penned in his thought-provoking and must-read ‘Woes of an Ostrich Republic’;

‘Islam is not the state religion of Pakistan, denial is. And our national emblem should be the ostrich, given our proclivity to bury our heads in the sand and not see the landscape around us as it is.’

It will be nugatory to tart up Pakistan’s image for the world and act for them and for ourselves [ in betrayal of reality and as an ode to denialism ] as if everything is ‘Aal Iz Well’ while succumbing to the death-knell of destruction in the country due to national apathetic torpor that binds us in bondage of inertia relating to the situations in the country.

~ Hafsa Khawaja

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