Pakistan is suffering from an acute image problem. No one disagrees and I would be the millionth person to do so. Look at the reports of terrorism emanating from our soil, splashed all across the global media; Pakistani passport being reduced to a document that raises eyebrows at airports rather than generating a welcoming sign of smiles and  greetings; Pakistani Diaspora being frowned upon in their workplaces; our students being despised and discriminated against in the developed world; our tourism industry cut to the lowest level; our products losing appeal and our trade the trust and credibility of the international community; our commitments to rid the country of corruption and crime being mocked at; the claims of sovereignty and its inviolability being looked down upon. The question here, however, is: what is the cure and how long would it take to work? There is no simple answer to this question and certainly there is no quick fix. The problem is chronic and only consistent efforts over the years could address it. Who doesn’t have the image problems in the world? America with all its power, strength and money is disdained by millions on this globe. But everyone likes to go to the US if given an opportunity .The answer to this enigma is simple: America keeps alive its image as a free country where freedoms are guaranteed and each one of its inhabitants is treated according to law. There are, though, many deviations from the stated norms but they are glossed over by free debate and exposé of wrong doings by the media. The recent episodes of Assange and Snowden only add to the credibility of journalistic investigation as that of a free and critical comment on the happenings. The US invasion of Afghanistan, drone attacks, foot dragging in the Palestinian issue and a nod to Israeli settlements or interventions in other parts of the Middle East, the latest being Syria – these are fiercely castigated the all pervasive media. There is, however, not a single instance where the US administration throws down the gauntlet to its critics. How this disposition is sustained and upheld is due only to an acute sense of adhering to the ideals of a free society and making it sure that the image  is not tarnished .Free enquiry is built into the psyche of the American body-politic. There is a continuous effort by the civil society to block any onslaught on its freedoms. These are the characteristics that are consciously built in the subliminal messages of their communication experts. It is just not done randomly; there is a plan to it. A diverse number of methods are employed to do the work. Sometimes it is in the form of leaks, like Wikileaks, at others it is a Stanford University students research report on the counter effects of the US drone policy. Snowden’s disclosures are splashed to convey a feeling of American superiority in cybernetics and easy access to the billions of pieces of digital information of the people and governments. It tramples on the way, the claims of sovereignty, territorial integrity or impregnability from foreign intrusion by regimes all over the world.Let us take another model for our discussion. It is none other than our next-door neighbor India. It is beset by the same kind of ailments that we suffer from. The only exception is that they have confidence. They have the most emotive pride in their being Indians. It makes them love their soil and their heritage. That is why they can boast of Incredible India. Tourists from all over the world want to see this incredibility in person. Why is it that though we together became independent 65 years ago, we have not been to invent a single worthwhile slogan to attract tourists? Terrorism is also taking its toll in India but they recover from it quickly. Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia, Ireland, Mexico, even Israel and many other countries have expanded their tourism in the face of all kinds of odds. This needs imagination, innovation, passion and creativity of the discerning souls. We have the highest snow-capped mountains, enchanting deserts, velvet green valleys, splendid resorts, few of world`s most cherished monuments and archaeological sites, remnants of the most ancient civilization; yet we lack the ability to showcase this unmatched heritage for the world. The problem is we lack a leadership with a vision to promote this advantage. We do not lack in caliber or ingenuity; neither is there a short supply of human resource imbued with a passion to turn it around. We live in a competitive world. If we do not dare, we will be relegated to the back seat. Our distorted image costs us dearly and affects our economic activity besides bearing upon our ambitious objective of standing as a proud nation. How long?

nThe writer is a formerly M.D PTV, President IRS.