What ails Brand Pakistan @ 75…

11 Aug,2022

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Source: Freepik.com

 

 

By Avik Chattopadhyay

 

Avik ChattopadhyayAs we celebrate ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’, so is Pakistan celebrating ‘Jashn-e-Azaadi’ to commemorate 75 years of its existence. The first is the cause while the latter is the effect!

 

Pakistan would not have happened but for the creation of India as an independent nation state in August 1947, so technically, while India can rightly claim this as her 75th year of independence, Pakistan technically can claim this her 75th year of creation. Therefore, our neighbours in the north by northwest should be celebrating their ‘Jashn-e-Wajood’.

 

This paradox itself is a demonstration of brand “Pakistan”. A brand made up of contrasts, paradoxes, and conflicting paradigms. Its very creation is due to the existence of another. Therefore, it’s very lifeline is dependant on the health of another.

 

This is the typical image of the brand. It is a bit like a parasitic plant, living on the nutrients from another brand that is India. Maybe I sound too harsh, but that is the reality of brand Pakistan today. Almost all references to Pakistan are vis-à-vis India. Comparisons are natural to be drawn but they are of the nature of proving time and again that the brand has been one big mistake. I remember listening to a lecture by journalist M.J. Akbar in 2016 where he said that the current state of Pakistan actually proves that partition, though painful, was a correct step in India’s favour. And Pakistan has not done itself any favours over the last two decades to prove us wrong.

 

Can the 75th year of its existence give it the space to introspect? Is the Pakistan today the one that the elites of the Muslim League led by Syed Ahmed Khan had dreamt of in the early 1900s? Is this what Mohammad ‘Allama’ Iqbal visualised? Or for that matter even Jinnah? While the germination of the thought of a separate state for the Muslims in British India was a reactionary one, emanating out of fear of losing out rather than any positive vibes, being casually called a ‘rogue state’ and a ‘basket case’ could never have been the desired outcome.

 

And it is this fundamental principle of brand creation and building that decides where it finally ends up. A brand born out of negative emotions cannot last for long in a positive state of being. It is inflicted with complexes of various dimensions… neglect, inferiority, and lack of self-belief. The brand cannot stand on its own feet. And this exactly is the malaise of brand Pakistan.

 

Pakistan is one of the world’s richest cultural and civilisational regions. It is the one melting pot of Mehrgarh of the Neolithic Age, Indus Valley of the Bronze Age, the Greeks, the Seleucids, the Mauryans, the Kushans, the Guptas, the Umayyads, the Hindushahis, the Ghaznavids, the Sultans, the Mughals, the Durranis, the Sikhs and the British. It carries a historical legacy that would have seen it as one of the most socio-culturally thriving parts of the world. It could have created a model nation state based on plurality of cultures rather than the purity of faith it opted for. It has ended up choosing the turbulence of multiple cultures rather than their inherent richness. This is so typical of brands that somewhere neglect their roots and natural moorings and go for causes that are non-credible, transactional, and synthetic.

 

Pakistan is the land of the Nobel winning physicist Dr. Abdus Salam. It is the land of the pathbreaking ‘Ommaya Reservoir’ that transformed medical surgery. It is the land of Naveed Zaidi who developed the first plastic magnet. It is the land of the Farooq Alvi brothers who created the first computer virus (c)Brain! It is the land of Raza Kazim who has created the Sagar veena. It is the land of Mahbub-ul-Haq who created the ‘Human Development Index’! It is the land of Abdul Sattar Edhi who set up the world’s largest private fleet of ambulances.

 

Noor Zehra, daughter of Raza Kazim, playing the ‘Sagar Veena’

Pakistan is Faiz, Manto, Iqbal and Eliya. Pakistan is Imran Khan, Hassan Sardar, Jahangir Khan and Abdul Khaliq. Pakistan is Nusrat Sahab, Abida Parveen, Nazia Hasan and Strings. Pakistan is Sadiq Khan, Riz Ahmed, Ayesha Jalal and Zayn Malik.

 

Pakistan is well beyond the army, ISI, JeM, Masood Azhar, HuM and the Taliban. Pakistan is well beyond bombings, ethnic hatred, corruption, and fundamental terrorism. But the brand is a victim of such a narrative. Pakistan today is a pale picture of the vibrant Pakistan of the 1960s and 1970s. It stands before India today as a stark reminder of what we could become and should stay away from.

 

Nooh Butt and Gurdeep Singh in Birmingham

When Nooh Dastgir Butt dedicates his weightlifting gold in the just concluded Commonwealth Games to Mirabai Chanu and celebrates with his dear friend and Indian weightlifter Gurdeep Singh dancing to Siddhu Moosewala songs, it is a Pakistan that is counter to the popular narrative. When Arshad Nadeem throws his javelin beyond 90 metres and remembers his sparring competitor Neeraj Chopra in his moment of victory, it is against the narrative.

 

On 31st May this year, the Institute of Policy Studies in Islamabad and the Fatima Jinnah University in Rawalpindi organised a seminar titled ‘75 years of Pakistan: Constitution, Public Representation and Governance System’ where some of the sharpest minds reiterated the crucial role the revised constitution of 1973 plays in keeping powers in check and needs to get stronger by the day. To quote from the deliberations, “Martial laws have been imposed on the country a number of times, however, all of the initiators had to seek some form of public representation after some years. Ayub Khan had to resort to local democracy, Zia-ul-Haq had to conduct a referendum to provide the impression that he was a representative of the people, even Pervez Musharraf had to turn to local bodies elections and a referendum.”

 

In 1956, Pandit Nehru saw Abdul Khaliq run the 100 metres and called him ‘Parinda e Asia’.

In 1960, Ayub Khan saw Milkha Singh race against Khaliq and called him ‘The Flying Sikh’!

 

On the 75th anniversary of its existence, Pakistan has to take a strong hard look at what defines its very existence as a brand. It has to question its core purpose and promise to itself. It has to decide whether to remain the parasitic rafflesia flower or evolve into the the symbiotic orchid. And that will be done by its people and not the government, army or ulema.

 

The two brands of India and Pakistan are inseparable. How I wish the two nations were to together celebrate ‘Azaadi ka Amrit Jashn’. For each brand has a part of itself living in the other.

 

I conclude with the final lines from Piyush Mishra’s song ‘Husna’ written a decade ago…

 

“Aur rota hai raaton mein

Pakistan kya vaise hi

jaise Hindustan,

O Husna?”

[And does Pakistan shed tears every night just as India does, my love?”]

 

Jeevey jeevey Pakistan!

Jai Hind!!

 

(You could watch the song being performed by Piyush Mishra and Hitesh Sonik at Coke Studio MTV Season 2 on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4zTFzMPWGLs)

 

Avik Chattopadhyay is a senior brand and business strategist and advisor based in Gurugram. He writes on MxMIndia every other Thursday. His views here are personal.

 

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