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Is the global perception of Pakistan finally changing?

Following Pakistan’s 68th Independence Day celebrations on 14th August, I look at the changing face of Pakistan and the instigators behind it.

If I were to ask you the first three words that you associate with Pakistan and you say terrorism, violence and fundamentalism, then you my friend are certainly not far from the truth. Both political and religious tensions have incited countless instances of violence and terror, most recently with the 2014 Peshawar shooting. However, due to a constant media interest in such terrorism, there is little in the headlines that serves to yield a favourable view of the country. This is no less exacerbated by Pakistan’s own history of poor global PR and in fact, as of 2014[1] Pakistan was even ranked as the second most negatively perceived country in the world.

Yet having visited Pakistan myself this summer, it seems that there is a gap between the world’s perception of Pakistan and its reality. Whilst you can’t deny the prevalence of violence and terror, they have come to overshadow the virtues of Pakistan, with seldom mention of the country’s natural beauty or that of its population. Pakistan has become a victim of the outside perception which is strongly influenced by mainstream media outlets zooming in on the country’s flaws without celebrating its successes – as is so common for many other developing countries also.

However, the true essence of life in Pakistan is now increasingly coming to the forefront which begs the question: is the global perception of Pakistan finally changing? The work of Humans of New York, which recently travelled all around Pakistan from the mountainous highs of Gilgit to the vibrant cityscape of Islamabad, conjured a positive response of awe and admiration from many of the photoblog’s followers. Humans of Pakistan, sharing some of Pakistan’s most breath-taking sceneries and cultural traditions, has also evoked a similar admiration and together these pages are perhaps effective in countering the dehumanisation of a society, as well as working to remove some of the stereotypes ingrained by mainstream media. It seems the spotlight is finally shifting from the country’s downfalls to what it truly has to offer.

This is backed by a strong desire amongst Pakistan’s younger generations to reshape their country’s image – as is evident in the works of motorcyclist Moin Khan who documents his travels around Pakistan, exhibiting its unseen beauty. A screening of his documentary ‘Rediscovering Pakistan: An Untold Tale’, following his journey from the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco to Lahore, Pakistan, also attracted a significant audience of students when he visited the University of Warwick earlier this year, perhaps indicative of a greater interest in the more positive side of Pakistan.

Whilst there is undoubtedly still a long way to go before attitudes to Pakistan may truly be changed amongst the greater public, with the prominence of social media as an alternative news source to mainstream media outlets, it’s possible that such exhibits of Pakistan may finally lead to a greater awareness of its reality. Who knows, there may be a time soon when people won’t instinctively advise me to ‘stay safe’ next time I tell them I’m visiting Pakistan for three weeks.

[1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/latestnews/2014/world-service-country-poll

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