By Sabahat Nazir, Weekly Pulse Magazine, September 16, 2013
Power is an ability to direct or influence the behavior of others or the course of events. At the end of cold war greatest changes have been occurred in world political and economic structure. In this new international environment it is a general thinking that states compete with each other not only for hard power but also for soft power.
Hard power seeks to kill, capture, or defeat an enemy. Soft power seeks to influence others through understanding and the identification of common ground. Terrorism, extremism, non-state actors, information warfare etc, are the new emerging threats to the global security. In this realm military power which was an important tool of a state’s power is declining and state’s public diplomacy, its norms, values and foreign policy has got more importance.
The term soft power was first used by Joseph. S. Nye in1990 in his book “Bound to Lead: The Changing Nature of American Power” since that time the significance of this term has risen dramatically. In 2004 he wrote the book “Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics” in which he further explained the concept of soft power. “Soft power is the ability to get what you want through attraction rather than coercion or payments. It arises from the attractiveness of a country’s culture, political ideals, and policies. When our policies are seen as legitimate in the eyes of others, our soft power is enhanced.”
After 9/11 attacks Pakistan has been facing various image problems although it is making all possible efforts to tackle the problem of terrorism not only for its own interests but also for the larger interests of other states which are also the victims of terrorism. But despite all such efforts the world in general and west in particular is not giving Pakistan its due credit. The western media only highlights such things through which the image of Pakistan can be damaged and has been demanding more and more from it Due to all such things Pakistan is suffering from image problem in the whole world. The main reason of such problems is that we in Pakistan have seldom given importance to soft power and image building process of nation. In such a situation Pakistan needs to promote its domestic and international image and performance in the eyes of other nations. It is true that Western governments use media as an important tool to project their soft image and desired narratives in the world. But in Pakistan’s case the stories being communicated through media are not helpful in projecting Pakistan’s good image in the world.
For example the stories/news being generated by Pakistani media present Pakistan’s image as it is a state which is breeding ground of terrorism , where girls are targeted for seeking education, where visiting sportsmen and tourists are targeted, polio vaccinators are not safe and citizens lives have no value. It is Pakistani irony that one of Pakistan’s most prominent female role models Oscar winning filmmaker Sharmeen- Obaid- Chinoy won this prize by telling the whole world about the brutal treatment meted out to disenfranchised women. Similarly Pakistani media programs such as Sar e Aam are just telling the whole world about our internal corruption and lawlessness. These things are damaging Pakistan’s image in the eyes of others. We have even dried up our resources that can tell a positive story by suppressing artistic expressions through theater, film, music and dance. The role of media in building a positive and soft image of Pakistan is necessary. The media must be asked to help in building a better, positive Pakistan and to use the power it wields carefully in this regard.
Pakistan is unable to attract world attention despite having a lot of historical and cultural heritage. Two prominent ancient religio-cultural heritages Gandhara and Mohenjo_ Daro can make Pakistan a worth visiting place. Pakistan is also a multi cultural society and the projection of cultural diversity and positive initiatives through media can helpful in portraying a softer image of Pakistan. The free media, the natural beauty of land, the four seasons, the increasing emancipation of Pakistani women in every field of life and coke studio as emblem of music richness are all various aspects of Pakistani culture. The use of soft power can also be an important tool to deal with domestic conflicts and crises because the use of hard power against the opposition, militant and terrorists groups just externalizes conflicts and results into the outbreak of hostilities at a wider scale.
So in today’s world when Pakistan is facing image problem in the whole world it is very important that Pakistan should use soft power in order to present itself as a responsible member of international community and to have good relations with other states. If our prevailing systems social political economic and administrative function reasonably, effectively and efficiently no harm can come to Pakistan and we will be able to promote soft image of Pakistan.
Pakistani Diaspora abroad should play an active role to improve the impression of Pakistan by highlighting various colours and shades of Pakistani culture. Foreign policy can be of greater help if modified and focused on softer image building. Scholarship to students from abroad should be offered, people to people contact, sports and cultural exchanges must be started at a broader level.
All negative forces such as terrorism, sectarianism, fanaticism, violence and injustice must be curbed through justice and education. Without justice we cannot imagine a peaceful society and without widespread education, we cannot think of a civilized society. In the absence of justice and with ignorance and illiteracy, we cannot dream of a soft image of our country.