Don't strive for 'soft image' of Pakistan only to please the West, PM Imran tells nation

Published January 28, 2021
Prime Minister Imran Khan addresses the launch ceremony of a documentary in Islamabad on Thursday. — DawnNewsTV
Prime Minister Imran Khan addresses the launch ceremony of a documentary in Islamabad on Thursday. — DawnNewsTV

Prime Minister Imran Khan says Pakistanis shouldn't be concerned about creating a "soft image" of their country only to win approval from the West, calling such a perception an "inferiority complex".

Addressing the launching ceremony of a documentary drama titled "Paani Ke Pankh" in Islamabad on Thursday, the premier said people should instead strive for being seen as an independent nation which has confidence in itself and does not have to rely on anyone for aid.

"I repeatedly hear that we need to present a soft image of Pakistan. What does a soft image mean? Why do we say this and if this soft image is established will the world consider us very good?

Analyse: Why soft power is pivotal

"We shouldn't fall into this kind of misunderstanding; this is an inferiority complex. When a nation loses its confidence it tries to please people," the prime minister emphasised.

He said people shouldn't plan their actions based on what Western countries would approve, citing the example of the vision of "enlightened moderation" introduced by former military ruler retired Gen Pervez Musharraf.

"We heard the term 'enlightened moderation' for the first time in our lives. Nobody knows what it means. Most people understood it that the more we resemble people in the West the more we will appear moderate. So people started speaking English and wearing Western clothes, and [thought] they had become moderate.

"Is this moderation? Please understand this is inferiority complex."

Prime Minister Imran said Pakistanis only had to promote one image: that of an independent nation standing on its feet which believes in itself, doesn't rely on anyone and doesn't take loans from or beg anyone.

"Only then does the world respect you," he said, stressing that a nation that was self-reliant and thought big held the true honour.

"So the nation shouldn't think we go around pleasing the world, presenting a soft image."

The prime minister reiterated that Pakistan had made a "mistake" by entering the US 'War on Terror'.

"We entered someone else's war which wasn't ours, we should've never joined it," he said, adding that Pakistan had first taken part in "glorifying jihad" in the 1980s and making the Mujahideen "heroes", and later pursued them as "terrorists" on instructions of the US after 9/11.

"So the country inevitably had to pay a heavy price for it."

In this context, the premier said, people "shouldn't think we need to present a soft image of ourselves because they (the West) started calling us 'terrorists'."

"You can never enter someone else's war, take benefits from them and not suffer for it," he stressed.

He said the potential in Pakistan was unmatched by any other country and the nation tended to "undersell" itself.

"Until our thinking remains that we can't do anything until someone from the outside gives us loans due to our soft image, we can't move forward."

Prime Minister Imran promised his government's "complete support" for the film industry to produce original documentaries and films.

He said there was a time when Pakistan Television's (PTV) dramas were watched across the border in India, adding that the once-thriving film industry had fallen behind because it "started copying cheap Indian films".

'Decade of darkness'

Highlighting the importance of long-term planning in nation-building, Prime Minister Imran said in Pakistan, governments tended to want to finish projects within their five-year tenures so they could be shown to the public by spending billions in advertisements in order to win the next elections.

One of the biggest damages caused by this "handicap", he said, was that even though hydropower in the country was cheap and water reservoirs beneficial for agriculture could have been built, the past governments made decisions for the short term due to which the electricity produced by Pakistan was today among the most expensive in the subcontinent.

The premier noted that Pakistan's winter consumption of electricity fell down to 8,000-9,000MW from around 24,000MW in the summer but the country had to pay even for the power that was not used in the winter due to the type of contracts signed by previous governments.

"So this all happened because of short-termism. There was corruption in this, there was short-term thinking that we only think about the next election."

Prime Minister Imran said in the 1960s, the Pakistani industry benefited greatly due to cheap electricity but the "destruction" took place as the country entered the 90s. In the 2008-2018 period, which he referred to as "the decade of darkness", all institutions were destroyed and Pakistan's debt increased, he added.

Why debt has risen under PTI

Responding to critics who accuse the PTI government of increasing Pakistan's debt burden, the premier said when his party came to power, the country's liabilities stood at Rs30,000 billion and the loans due were Rs25,000bn.

During the PTI's 2.5 years, the loans have risen from Rs25,000bn to Rs36,000bn, Imran said.

Giving a breakdown of this Rs11,000bn increase, he said loans worth Rs6,000bn were taken to pay interest on loans taken by the previous governments. Another Rs3,000bn were added to the debt because the dollar rose from Rs105 to Rs160 due to historic trade and current account deficits.

Of the remaining Rs2,000bn debt, he attributed Rs800bn to the gap created by a decline in tax collection due to Covid-19, saying the rest of the loans were spent on the pandemic relief package given by the government.

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