Monday, September 18, 2006

Been a while...

Sorry folks. It has been some time since our last posting. Much has been happening in the corridors of power, and the Project team has been kept busy. The President is currently on tour to the US, and we expect some positive results from his visit.

The Project Chief has accompanied the President's entourage, and we expect regular updates from New York and D.C.

So keep tuned to this space for more!

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Some information on Pakistan

Following is a write-up on Pakistan done by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

PAKISTAN emerged as an independent country on 14th August 1947, but it has a history of over five thousand years. The land of Pakistan has been a cradle of ancient civilizations; with well-developed cities, the Indus Valley Civilization was a contemporary of the Nile, Mesopotamian and Yellow River civilizations

Additionally, over two thousand years ago, the Gandhara Buddhist Civilization flourished in northern Pakistan, with Taxila as a seat of Buddhist learning. Famous Chinese scholars, including Xuan Zang, traveled to Taxila to study Buddhist scriptures. These travels are celebrated in the famous Chinese novel Xi You Ji (Journey to the West). Today, the Karakoram Highway that links Pakistan and China runs parallel to the fabled silk route of the past.

Pakistan' s Islamic heritage also goes back over a thousand years, and combines the traditions of Central Asia and West Asia in its architecture, poetry and literature. The richness of Pakistan's history, cultural traditions and heritage is matched by the diversity and beauty of Pakistan's landscape.

Geography

Pakistan lies along the River Indus stretching over 2,000 kilometers from the freezing heights of the Pamirs in the north to the balmy beaches of the Arabian Sea in the south. Pakistan's neighbours include China to the north, Afghanistan to the northwest, Iran to the west and India to the east.

Pakistan is the seventh most populous country in the world with nearly 145 million people and a land area of over 800,000 square kilometers. The Northern Areas of Pakistan are the meeting point of three major mountainous ranges: the Karakorams, the Himalayas,and the Hindu Kush, with some of the highest mountain peaks in the world. Every year, thousands of trekkers and mountaineers from around the world visit this fascinating region.

The Federal Capital of Pakistan is Islamabad, a new, modern and scenic city. Lahore is the country's cultural centre, famous for its historic monuments, and is the capital of the largest province, Punjab. Karachi, the largest city with a population of 12 million, is a cosmopolitan port city and the capital of the southern province of Sindh. Peshawar is located at the southern end of the historic Khyber Pass and is the capital of the North Western Frontier Province. Quetta is the capital of Baluchistan, which is Pakistan' s largest province in area, and rich in natural resources.

Politics and neighbouring environment

Pakistan is a federation of four provinces and a parliamentary democracy with a multi-party system. The mainstream politics of the country, as evident from the manifestoes and agendas of its major political parties, is moderate and focused on economic and social development. The principles imbibed in the State Constitution emphasise social justice, welfare, equality and equal opportunity, democracy, freedom and progress.

In foreign relations, Pakistan pursues a policy of seeking friendly and cooperative relations with all countries on the basis of the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence. President Pervez Musharraf is the constitutional Head of State. The Prime Minister Mr. Shaukat Aziz is an eminent former banker and has been Finance Minister of the country for the last five years. Pakistan has been affected by the political developments of the past twenty years in the region; however, the regional environment has now greatly improved. South Asian countries have agreed to a Preferential Trade Agreement and are aiming at free trade arrangements in the future within the framework of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).

There are plans to link up South Asia with roads and oil and gas pipelines from Central Asia and Iran. Pakistan is a member of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), which is an economic entity with ten member countries, including the Central Asian states, Iran, Afghanistan, and Turkey. Pakistan has also close relations with South East Asian countries and is a member of the Asian Regional Forum (ARF).

Pakistan is located at the crossroads of Central Asia, South Asia and South West Asia. This is a strategic location with great potential for Pakistan to become a hub of economic activity. In addition to the available extensive rail and road network, the government is developing highways and the Gwadar Deep-sea Port that would serve to link up the adjoining regions of Central Asia.

Pakistan's Economy

Pakistan is a developing country. As such, the government attaches the highest priority to economic and social development. The agricultural sector is responsible for 25% of the economy with cotton, rice, wheat, sugarcane and maize as the major crops. Pakistan is an exporter of fruits, especially citrus, and fish and fish preparations. The industrial sector accounts for 24% of the economy. Textiles, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, iron and steel, building materials, cement, fertilisers, sports goods, surgical goods, and leather goods are the mainstay of the industrial sector and the country's primary industrial exports. Energy, IT and small and medium-sized industries are amongst the fastest growing sectors in the country.

Pakistan' s total GDP for year 2005-06 per capita income at US$ 846, real GDP grew by 6.6 percent in 2005-06 as against 8.6 percent last year. Pakistan's economy has grown at an average rate of almost 7.0 percent per annum during the last four years and over 7.5 percent in the last three years, thus enabling it to join the exclusive club of the fastest growing economies of Asia.

Pakistan' s exports grew by 13% and crossed US$ 12 billion in 2003. In comparison, imports grew by 19% and were over US$ 13 billion. Remittances from overseas Pakistanis exceeded US$ 4 billion in the year 2003-04. The current account balance, excluding official transfers, stood in surplus at US$ 1369 million. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) crossed US$ 1 billion in 2003-04 with large investment in the telecoms sector. Foreign exchange reserves have been more than US$ 12.5 billion.

Pakistan' s exports were targeted to grow by 18.1 percent in 2005-06 — rising from $14.4 billion last year to $ 17.0 billion this year. During the first nine months of the current fiscal year, exports were up by 18.6 percent, rising to $12.1 billion from $10.2 billion in the same period last year. Given the performance of the first nine months, exports are likely to touch $17 billion mark by the end of this fiscal year. Imports were targeted to grow by 26.0 percent in the current fiscal year — rising from $14.4 billion to $20.7 billion. Pakistan's imports are up by 43.2 percent in the first nine months of the current fiscal year — rising from $ 14.4 billion to $ 20.7 billion, showing an increase of almost $ 6.0 billion this year.

The current account deficit, excluding official transfers, stood at $4,696 million (3.7% of GDP) during July-March 2005-06, as against a deficit of $1181 million in the same period last year.

Pakistan' s exchange rate remained stable at an average of Rs. 60 to 1 US dollar. The current fiscal year, started with an inflation rate of 9.0 percent in July 2005, but continued to decelerate, reaching a 23-month low at 6.2 percent in April 2006. Food inflation was close to 9.7 percent at the beginning of the current fiscal year, but decelerated sharply to 3.6 percent in April 2006 — the lowest in the last 31 months.

Pakistan' s economy presents an upbeat picture of stability and growth. The economic policies are transparent and predictable. Private sector confidence has grown, the stock market is buoyant, the external balance of payments is in a comfortable position, expatriate Pakistanis are bringing capital into the country and FDI has increased. Positive indicators are also evident in the substantial increase in foreign exchange reserves, the stable exchange rate, low inflation, reduction of the debt burden, the low fiscal deficit and a surplus current account balance, and increased exports and revenue collection.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Email address

Just as a reminder, enteries and correspondence can be sent to:

info@pakistanimage.com

We hope that this time the responses will stuff our Inbox, so don't let us down!

CONTRIBUTE!!!

We at the Project are constantly being asked by people, what can we do to help project the true heart of what is Purely Pakistan?

To this end, we called on people to help contribute to this blog, to send in their own observations and entries; to email us pictures and photographs of what Pakistan means to them; to contribute video clips we could place online.

Sadly, the response was extremely lacklustre.

Now, as Defense Day nears, we once again call on all our readers to get up! Be proactive, starting contributing! Send us your photographs, send us video clips, share with us your thoughts and meanderings on what Pakistan means to you.

We are initiating the Pakistan's Media Ambassadors programme, under which everyone will have a chance to make concrete contributions towards helping build Pakistan's image. The Media Ambassdors programme looks to leverage the Internet and online media tools (Skypecasts, Podcasts, blogs, online forums, and networking sites) to help project the Pure Pakistan. If we create enough buzz in the virtual world, it will trickle out folks.

So get up and GET MOVING!!!

SPEAK UP PAKISTAN!!!

No More Horror Stories

Hi, this is Qurat (Creative Director) from the Pakistan Image Project.

I have an interesting story to share with everyone. I bumped into an Australian lady named Robin, who was touring Pakistan, on a recent flight. This was Robin's first international trip outside Australia and she had decided to visit Pakistan.

Robin, 64, is a working lady who had kindly extended her hospitality to a Pakistani in Sydney a few months back. Robin offered her house to Mr. Rauf in Sydney, drove him from Melbourne to Sydney and entertained him for four days. During this time, Mr. Rauf spoke so highly of Pakistan that Robin decided to save up some money and come visit. She booked her trip through a Pakistani travel agency, which charged her a staggering Aus$8000 for a 21-day trip.

Poor Robin, who had know idea what to expect in Pakistan, was put up in cheap 2-3 star hotels, and then subsequently ditched by the agency for some Japanese tourists; apparently they had more cash.

Robin ended up getting totally fleeced.

To top it off, Mr. Rauf, who Robin had treated so well in Australia, paid her practically no attention once she arrived in Islamabad. His wife, an "educated" socialite and supposed "go-getter" treated Robin with extreme suspicion. And after learning of her plight, neither husband nor wife offered her to stay with them.

I was horrified when I heard this story, as one of the things that sets Pakistan and Paksitanis apart is our sense of hospitality. I decided to make up for Mr. and Mrs. Rauf's lack of hospitality. I took Robin with me to the Khewra Salt Mines, which she loved! I also invited her over to my place and offered to show her around Islamabad.

I tell this story as we are all our countries best ambassadors and proponents. When people come to visit Pakitan, we must all ensure that they leave wishing, dying in fact, to return. So to all the Pakistanis out there reading this blog, I say, next time you see a foreigner or non-Pakistani in need out here, extend them your assistance, go out of your way, show them the true heart of Pakistan!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Looking for Bloggers

We at the Project have decided to open this blog up to the public. As such, we are on the lookout for people across the globe who think they'd like to contribute to this blog .

Basically we're looking for entries on anything from thoughts on Pakistan's image and how to improve it, to Pakistani views on world events (like the tragic carnage being carried out in Lebanon), to domestic affairs (views on the amendments to the Hudood Ordinance), to a Pakistani point of view on international sports (like Floyd Landis' doping charge).

We feel that this blog is not only a chance for us to talk about Pakistan's image but is also an opportunity to show the world how most Pakistanis feel and what they think about various subjects and issues.

We look forward to receiving your blog entries. Submit them to info@pakistanimage.com along with your full name and contact details and we'll be sure to put them on.

Also, we'd like to take this opportunity to invite travel bloggers from around the world to come visit Pakistan and submit their postings or their experiences here.

So start blogging folks!

Independence Day

Hello again folks.

14th August is just around the corner, So we at the Project thought we'd invite our readers to submit pictures and comments on their experiences on this auspicious day.

So send in your photographs and comments and let's show the world how we celebrate our Independence Day!!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Questions

We received a comment recently from a concerned reader. The comment can be read on the comments page, however, the gist of it was that people do not seem to know what the Project is doing.

To quote: "What are your achievements? What is your plan and strategy? Or is this just more bureaucratic talk and a money making gimmick?"

So... Let's address these in reverse order.

First, no, this is by no means a money-making gimmick. While the Project has come up with some ideas for generating revenue, for the most part these ideas were put forward in order to come up with a sustainable source of funding for the Project's various endeavours. So far, however, none of these have so far been implemented.

That brings us to the second point. We would like to assure our readers that the Project is by no means "just bureaucratic talk" - interest in seeing the efforts of this team succeed stem from the highest levels of governance in the country. Having said that, the reality is that while we are not part of the bureaucracy, we do have to deal with it. In practical terms, all this means is that things take time to implement. Not as long as some of our critics would have you believe, but also, admittedly, not as short as we would ideally hope.

As for our plans and strategy and what we have achieved? Well, our strategy - at least the broader strokes - was outlined in the very first posting on this blog. Our plans? Much of those was also outlined - albeit briefly - in that first posting, as were some of our achievements to date.

More recently, we have reached out to both the mainstream and independent media in the U.S. and are happy to say that we found much interest in covering positive Pakistan stories. However, to this end, our readers must understand, as we do, that these things take time. Media outreach and relations are a long, long process - and these are relationships that are forged in years, not months and certainly not days. While we are happy to report positive interest, it may be some time before the fruits of these efforts are borne.

Meanwhile, we would encourage our readers, such as the anonymous commenter, to put to us more direct questions. We will, to the best of our abilities, answer your questions.

That is what this blog is about, after all.

Having said that - it is also about engaging the public, about creating a forum for discussion. We too are human, and all too fallible. So if you have suggestions, questions, comments, then as we have said before, use this forum to put them forward.

We look forward to hearing back from you.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Podcasts and New Media Journalism

We at the Project have recently begun examining the possibility of using audio and video Podcasts to broadcast some positive Pakistan stories.

If any of our readers out there are Podcasters, or documentary filmmakers, please drop us a line and let's try to get your audio/video Podcast broadcast onto the Web!

You can email us at info@pakistanimage.com.

We look forward to your ideas and submissions!

The Power of Blogging

Hello folks. First off, sorry for the long delay in posting. I have been away the past two weeks and only just returned.

So again, my apologies to our regular readers.

Now on to more important matters. Recently, I took a workshop on the ubiquitous nature of blogs and how they are changing the face of modern communication, journalism in particular. Increasingly, blogs are becoming a leading form of information desemmination. From opinion makers to policy pundits to average everyday Joes - blogs are becoming the 21st Century's communication instrument of choice.

We'd love to hear our readers' thoughts on the subject. Also, for those of our readers who have their own blogs, we would love to link to them, and vice versa.

More to come...

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

New Name and Seeking Contributions!

Also, just to let our readers know, we've changed the title of our blog from "Branding Pakistan" to "Purely Pakistan".

The reason being that we do not want these efforts to be lumped in as merely a "marketing exercise". Yes, RE-branding Pakistan in the global sense is part of what we have set out to do. But another part is simply communicating to the world all that is Pakistan.

Hence, our blog is all things "Purely Pakistan!"

To this end, we would also encourage our readers to contribute their thoughts in the form of guest posts - of course, these would have to be moderated and we cant promise that everyone's guest posts will be put online. However, we can assure our readers that as many posts as possible that conform to the spirit and tone of the blog and our common goals will be included.

Another way you all can contribute to the growth and energy of the blog is by sending in photographs to info@pakistanimage.com. Each week we will select a Picture of the Week and post it to the blog with credit to the photographer.

Send in anything you like, just make sure that it reflects an some positive aspect of Pakistan, or something you find unique about our country.

Hope to see loads of pics and postings!

"Uphill Battle"

In the past week or so, we've received a number of emails highlighting the "uphill battle" nature of the task set before us. Thankfully, the vast majority of comments and emails we've received are more encouraging than not.

That said, there can be no denying that we face a daunting task. Given the many criticisms levelled at Pakistan, from military dictatorship to lack of civil liberties and basic human rights. Admittedly, these are problems that exist. However, one only needs take a look at recent developments vis-a-vis the Hudood Ordinance to see that concrete steps are being taken, by the government together with concerned citizens, towards remedying such imbalances in the system.

The point to be made here is that there is power in the voices of the people. Both to instigate change domestically, as well as to concurrently project all that is positive about Pakistan. And here, once again (for the sake of clarity!) allow us to state once again clearly that this does NOT mean whitewashing the problems and declaring "All is fine!"

We believe that our biggest challenge, viz our image abroad, still remains a poor (read as non-existent) share of voice in the mainstream media. And the hardest thing to accomplish is to gain that share of voice.

Media relationships are built over years, even decades - as such, we have a long way to go. Having said that, prospects seem positive. As part of our strategy, we have implemented an outreach programme with foreign journalists, and so far the response has been good. Most of the journalists we have started dialogues with are open, in fact are keen, to do stories projecting alternative aspects of Pakistan that do not make it to the mainstream. To this end, we have highlighted stories within our Grid.

But there is more - Pakistan is globally placed in a region of great geo-strategic and economic significance. We bridge many growing economies and provide a vital "corridor" and passageway for energy and trade routes.

For example, Pakistan has the closest deep-sea port accessible to the rising Central Asian economies. Moreover, Pakistan is placed vitally at the junction between oil and gas resources to our west and south west and rising demand to our east and north east.

So while all may not be "fine" it's definitely not as bad as some would have us (and the rest of the world) think.

We are also going ahead with a plan to open dialogue and build relationships with the domestic media (as mentioned in earlier postings). To this end, we've already had appearances on CityFM89 and Hum TV. Inshallah, readers will soon be able to catch members of the team on other leading channels!

Keep reading and, more importantly, keep writing to us with your thoughts and comments!

Remember all we need to do is speak up and make sure our voices are heard!