New Delhi, Sep 28 (IANS) Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, fully aware of his country’s “grim reputation for terrorism,” has called for a “drastic change” in the image of Pakistan and asked the media to join him in promoting the “soft image of a culturally rich, inviting and economically vibrant country.”
“It is unfortunate that Pakistan’s image abroad has been tarnished so badly that the world associates it only with terrorism and extremism,” says Musharraf in his recently published “In The Line of Fire: A Memoir.”
“Our grim reputation for terrorism and the many travel advisories against us hinder tourism,” he says.
Asking the world to look at the country he rules afresh, Musharraf waxes lyrical about “virgin coastline, picturesque mountains, dense forests and mighty rivers” of Pakistan and invites the world to soak in “rich and distinct cultures” of Pakistan’s four provinces.
“Ironically, all this has remained the best-kept secret of Pakistan,” says Musharraf.
“Worse, the forces of religious extremism and obscurantism reject this cultural activity as being un-Islamic. No previous government had the courage to tell them that they were wrong,” says the Pakistani leader in his memoirs that sounds more like his campaign pitch for the elections next year.
In his bestselling book, that hit Indian bookstores Wednesday, Musharraf, who ousted democratically elected Nawaz Sharief in a military coup in 1999, also asserts that contrary to popular perception Pakistan is predominantly a moderate country, albeit one with a small fringe group of extremists.
But he rues that despite his diligent efforts to promote what he calls “a truer image of Pakistan” and its myriad achievements in the field of culture, sports and tourism the world has chosen to tar it with the brush of extremism.
“However much we plead that the vast majority of Pakistan is moderate and that only a fringe element is extremist – and that our national fabric has been damaged by the turbulence to our west in Afghanistan and to our east in Kashmir, not by anything inherent within our borders and society – the message does not get across,” says Musharraf, who has used his memoirs to promote him as a moderate leader of a moderate country seven months before elections in Pakistan.
Distancing the Pakistani state from acts of terrorism – a charge New Delhi has often hurled against Islamabad – Musharraf asserts that the fringe group of extremists in Pakistan are indoctrinated into terrorism by a combination of vested interests and socio-economic deprivation.
“I have therefore tried to project a truer image of Pakistan, which I call a soft image, through the promotion of tourism, sports and culture,” he says in self-congratulatory tone.
He exhorted the Pakistani media to help him sell the image of a new resurgent Pakistan – a “dynamic, progressive and moderate nation.” “We have to defeat terrorism and extremism, but at the same time must also present a culturally rich, inviting and economically vibrant alternative in its place. The media need to gear up to sell Pakistan abroad.”