Pakistan’s recent appearance in the infamous US ‘countries of interest’ list, which isn’t exactly the list of most favoured nations, has brought the country’s international reputation to an all-time low. A fun Google experiment has been going around the blogosphere lately to see what popular Google searches say about certain things. Apparently typing in “Pakistan is..." reveals exactly how bad our public image has been lately. The not-so-pleasant looking list of Google suggestions speaks for itself:

google1

When I tried the above query myself, I got marginally better results, with the most entertaining Google suggestion yet: “Pakistan is building robotic army.” Really getting into this Google experiment, and getting out my one true gut-reaction as a Pakistani, I typed in “India is..." for a comparative perspective:

google2

What I got was my socks knocked off. The disparity was shocking! Clearly those professional-looking media savvy Indians, with all their networking skills, and public relations finesse, and all their sophisticated lobbying were getting the word out that India is great, India is a developing country, and India might just be the richest/best country in the world.

While we’ve had all our resources and energies concentrated on security and defense, the Indians, as smart as they are, have been maneuvering a very successful media campaign to promote their digital and electronic image to the fullest. There is no other choice. We must retort!

Since this marriage of Pakistan and terror isn’t working out for the promotion of the country and its citizens, we need to revamp our image in the international media. So here’s a novel idea, instead of waging a long, complex and resource-draining media war with India, we can gain ascendency with one swift underdog kinda move. Pakistan should, as a nation, get a Pepsi sponsorship.

It would be kind of like our cricket team being sponsored by Pepsi, or like the Vital Signs being sponsored by Pepsi. It would entail things like the national flag having a small Pepsi emblem in the corner, our national anthem having a short but sweet Pepsi sound byte. Of course we would have to learn naras and milli naghmas like “’P’ se Pepsi, ‘P’ se Pakistan,” or “Pepsi peetay raho, Pakistan mein jeetay raho,” but I’m sure our elected official figures wouldn’t mind wearing little Pepsi badges on their apparel. We would also get used to seeing a big framed Pepsi poster next to portraits of Allama Iqbal, Quaid-e-Azam, and Benazir Bhutto. Such posters may also be carried by elected representatives to official meetings if they feel the need to do so.

The deal would also entail Pakistan banning Coca Cola, dismantling their production plants, logistic centers, and de-corporatising all Coca Cola operatives, while eradicating any remaining Coke propaganda literature and paraphernalia. Admittedly, those who enjoy Coke would have to bite a bitter pill, sweet in the case of Pepsi, but the deal would not only guarantee us a big fat paycheck every month in the order of The Islamic Pepsi Republic of Pakistan, but also an unprecedented media revolution by pulling off the fastest image re-vamp in media history.

Think of it, instead of associating Pakistan with terrorists, extremists, internally displaced peoples, danger, instability, and all those not so image-friendly things, people would now be associating Pakistan with, yes, you guessed it, Pepsi! And all the awesomeness that comes with Pepsi. Think about it. We would be instantly cool by association, related to rock stars, pop stars, sports figures, music, and all these cool guys and hot women. When people think of Pakistan, far from thinking about guns, bombs, and baddies, people would immediately go, “Hmm, Pak-istan, isn’t that the place where everyone drinks Pepsi all the time?” There would be a civil society revolution, people would take to the streets with all their Pepsi-fueled enthusiasm, and would root out all the evils that plague the country, chanting and singing the slogan, “Pepsi se badal dau zamana.”

And the gains would indeed be mutual. Pepsi would be not only the savior of Pakistan, but also of the free world. By stabilising this most dangerous of places in the world they would be securing the developed world from all sorts of infectious menaces, and hazardous threats like loose nukes. This would be immortalised forever in history books as the battles for ‘Hearts, Minds, and Pepsi’, that was won by Pepsi. Off with the symbolism of Coca Cola representing the free world, and all those trucks sailing down through East Germany after the Berlin wall was demolished. Pepsi will double its gains many fold through this media blitz. Forget the angst of having a corporation intertwined with your national identity, associated with a top brand like Pepsi, things can only get better.

But with Coke shares plummeting, the marketing strategisers would obviously try to place their band so that they don’t suffer too much from being outwitted by Pepsi. They would obviously try to buy out our neighbour through a sleek deal, and competitive endorsement package. Stay tuned for the sequel, ‘India Jai Bola, Coca Cola.’

asifakhtar80x80
Lahore-based Asif Akhtar is interested in critical social discourse as well as the expressive facets of reactive art and is one of the schizophrenic narrators of a graphic novel. He blogs at http://e-scape-artist.blogspot.com/ and tweets at http://twitter.com/e_scape_artist.

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily represent the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

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