Pakistan: Where life can be a blast

Published: July 20, 2011

If only we would take a pragmatic approach to our fledgling tourism industry. PHOTO: ONLINE

The ‘enlightened moderation’ mantra from the Musharraf era prompted Pakistan’s oft-quoted ‘soft image.’ Seen as a much-needed leap beyond archetypal vistas of K-2 and the Lahore Fort (think 1970s photographs issued by PIA and the Ministry of Tourism), well-meant consultants were hired for the purpose of promoting a progressive image for the country—or at least, that’s what the aim was in flying out designers and models to put on fashion shows at Pakistani Consulates around the world.

One can almost imagine spectators gawking:

“Gosh, they have women in their country who don’t wear a burka and aren’t getting stoned for modeling?”

Err… yeah.

Even the glamour of Hollywood was meant to echo our new liberality, not by inviting big budget productions (A Mighty Heart, Angelina Jolie’s biopic on the Daniel Pearl killing, was filmed in India after being denied in Pakistan), but by maximising on Ms Jolie’s UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador duties in Pakistan. Angie’s tasks here have invariably involved shaking hands and posing for a lot of photographs with government officials and their extended families, in between her worthy visits to refugee camps. Here, one can imagine readers’ surprise:

“Look how excited Pakistani officials are to meet Angelina!”

Unsurprisingly, neither Pakistani bridal couture nor Ms Jolie’s formal sit downs with Pakistani heads of state from the last few administrations have succeeded in dispelling our international personification as a nation of angry, bearded men in puffy white shalwar kameezes who have fan posters of “Al Qayda” and the “Tally-ban” on their bedroom walls.

In terms of photography, a ‘soft image’ refers to a blurry, out-of-focus projection of reality that’s more pleasing to the viewer in that it’s flattering and softens the edges, like on soap operas or fairness-cream advertisements. However, in this age of real-time Twitter, Facebook and citizen journalism, it’s not so easy pull wool over people’s eyes because audiences want the real deal, not its Photoshopped version. For example, India’s yoga-ashram-kamasutra exoticism and kitsch song-and-dance culture is heavily promoted by both its Tourism Ministry’s advertising gurus (‘Incredible !ndia’),  Bollywood flicks and schmaltzy Hollywood movies like Eat Pray Love, but it takes one British Slumdog Millionaire to remind the world of the dismal urban realities of modern-day India (to the dismay of Mr Bachchan Sr and other promoters of celluloid lifestyles consisting of choreographed dancing and sequined outfits).

Back to our side of the border, there’s nothing heartwarming, nor glamorous, nor tourist-friendly to be called “The World’s Most Dangerous Country” by Newsweek (which we hotly denied at the time but then acceded with a shrug) and so many other things since then (we’ve lost count). Now, Malaysia (‘Truly Asia’) is a Muslim country where both tourists and locals can enjoy themselves without being ogled, whether it’s swimming at a beach, watching a concert, going dancing at a club or sipping a martini at a bar. Locals either join in or look the other way. The same goes for the UAE (‘Nowhere Like Dubai’), Indonesia (‘Wonderful Indonesia’), Turkey (‘A Never Ending Story’), the Maldives (‘Sunny Side of Life’), Morocco (‘The Most Beautiful Country in the World’), Egypt (‘Where It All Begins’), Jordan (‘Takes You Beyond’/’Explore The Hidden Treasure’), and many other Muslim countries which have a strong influx of tourism dollars despite potential civil unrest and a strong, positive brand identity in the world… something we desperately need, if only we would take a pragmatic approach to our fledgling tourism industry.

Now that we’ve established our dire need for an image overhaul and a tourism slogan (and ‘soft image’ and ‘Visit Pakistan’ are NOT slogans), how about some new taglines for discerning visitors:

  • Where Life Can Be A Blast (dark humour)
  • Destination Pakistan
  • We (Heart) Pakistan (for our die-hard expats who buy out PIA)
  • Fab Pakistan (i.e. the cooler side of Pakistan beyond tired, old stereotypes)
  • Grow With Pakistan (investors, this means you)
  • Authentically Pakistan
  • Purely Pakistan
  • A Cultural Paradise
  • An Experience Like No Other
  • Fascinating Pakistan
  • Rich in History, Warm in Hospitality

Tell us what you think in your comments below.

(Next week: Marketable Assets for Brand Pakistan—what we excel at and ought to promote, seriously).


Laaleen Khan

An international columnist and media consultant who Tweets @laaleen

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Salman Qureshi

    Like it and agree with you. Have been saying this to ppl around me for years now!!!Recommend

  • Great Jaat

    You had to ‘drag’ India in to it? As for slogans – how about “Daniel Pearly Pakistan” ? Surely a much more colorful headline than ‘Purely Pakistan’.Recommend

  • Abhi

    why reinvent the wheel,

    How about Land of Pure?Recommend

  • A Man of Hope

    There are talks everywhere, the web, news papers, schools, offices and our everyday discussions about how Pakistan is falling apart. Great emphasis is given to the problems surrounding the country. Once in a while people come out on the streets and protest- as their tempers cool down they go back in to their shells.
    I believe we can take this article a step further. Lets all come up with a slogan and put aside our differences for once and mutually agree on a slogan- an ‘image’ for our country. The slogan we decide here should be promoted through different media forums and all Pakistanis living abroad can play a role as well.
    Remember, Pakistan’s state cannot be changed with a five minute plan, a great speech, but it is small steps as these which can bring change over the course of time. Recommend

  • Syed Qalb-e-Abbas

    really like it ! i think ‘Rich in History, Warm in Hospitality ‘ will do .. :)Recommend

  • Laaleen

    Pakistan is da bomb! :D
    Keep the slogans coming, everybody. We can donate the list to the Tourism Ministry (at least it’ll be grammatically correct)Recommend

  • Laaleen

    @Great Jaat: Yup, love India and our overlapping heritage/mutual interest.

    …Would just like to add that nothing much has been done since the promise of “enlightened moderation”–Mush did well in that respect, but we really need to think like a gigantic ad agency and fix the big PR mess.Recommend

  •!/needroos Nadir El-Edroos

    Clever marketing isnt going to change perceptions. They are more practical reasons for why foreign tourists dont come. For example the high cost of travel insurance and the extremely high cost of getting insured for terrorism. Then there is the recently increased Visa fees for entry into Pakistan. Flying to Pakistan is also relatively more expensive as compared to flying to India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Its also easier for for tourists to move between India, SL and Nepal but crossing over Wagha can be a big problem. People in the West dont have the same amount of money to spend on tourism that they had until a few years ago. We could encourage say Middle Eastern or Chinese tourists but they would rather travel to the West or Malaysia.

    That said, changing slogans wont make a difference. At the same time tourists who visit our Northern Areas for treks and climbs are well aware of the local conditions and factor that into their planning. They are more than happy to visit despite the image problem. But then we havnt done any favors for ourselves there either. the infrastructure remains quite week, tourists are often harassed. Certain nationalities cant get their visa’s extended in Skardu or Gilgit. Foreign tourists have to pay double the fare to fly from say Isb-Skardu, but then if some senior bureaucrat, judge or general shows up they can be bumped off the flight.

    They are more pragmatic things to do to make the most of the tourists who do visit, then to change taglines and not be able to deliver when foreign visitors arrive. Case in point, the current cases of foreigners not being allowed to enter Peshawar. No where is this information made available in Pakistani embassy abroad. And this while they are large posters inviting tourists to Peshawar that are hung up at the entrance of Paksitani embassy. People arnt going to come to Pakistan if they are afraid that they will be harassed because they might be accused of being blackwater agents. Recommend

  • Tanoli of karachi.

    @ i live in new york and one of my gora friend with his girl friend were going to india and
    they ask about india i told them i am from pakistan i dont know much about india but just
    carefulll from pocket thieves and its gonna be hard for guys not getting hamburgers and faci
    ng dusty streets with cows when they return they were sorry. he told me i wish i should gone to a northern areas of pakistan,Recommend

  • Habibies

    I Love Pakistan I Love the People of Pakistan… Pakistan is a Greatest Muslim Country but its so Sad that the Politicians and Government of Pakistan is Slave of America and always working for America & Dollars… Salute to the Pakistani Nation & a Big Shame on Government… :(Recommend

  • Osmond

    Could add a few more Tag lines how about….

    Living on the edge.

    Its mind blowing.

    Pakistan, it will blow ur brains out.

    Everyday is a BLAST.

    Go to heaven….Come to Pakistan.

    The Jihadi experience.Recommend

  • Haider.h

    Visit Pakistan: We love you here*

    Disclaimer: The GOP will not be responsible for any kidnappings, be headings, forced conversions and forced circumcision (plz bring your own razor with you, the ones here are used over and over again)Recommend

  • Tingu


    Saying that one movie showing slums ruined all the positive image that India had built is silly to say the least. Slumdog Millionaire equally shows the bright side of India that it’s a land of optimism and growth. Infact, Bachchan Sr. was full of praises for that movie after his initial remarks.

    Even first world countries have both positive and negative images. Take Germany, it’s Europe’s biggest economy but for a lot of people it’s the land of Nazis. Similarly US is a country full of clueless fat people, for many.

    As for Pakistan, since neither it has strong economy nor its culture significantly stand out (because of India), it’ll have to live with the terrorism image for a long time to come, i’m afraid.Recommend

  • rehmat

    Your government does not want to give visas to foreigners. How will you get tourists?Recommend

  • MilesToGo

    here is a golden slogan for you…

    “Land of Indus”


  • http://islamabad Maryam

    @Tanoli of karachi.:
    its surprising atleast for me because me n my husband went on a tour of northern areas in may-june , we were new to the area and didnt know anything but were amazed at the hospitality of the people there, their warmth , amazing nature and let me tell you we forgot our bag in a local jeep which we hired and to our surprise the guy came back with the bag. we really appreciated it.
    so lemme let u:
    a) you are responsible for your belongings , dont blame others afterwards
    b) the one i gave u above is just an example our foreigners friends have a million like these
    c) next time dont blame the people rather take care of your things

    one more amazing thing abt the people of north was that my cell phone battery dies out and we were on the go so we stopped by a shop to get a battery and the guy selling the battery was so honest that he told us in advance that’s its not original and secondly its already used so that we can if we really want to buy we should otherwise we shouldnt blame him afterwards. such are the people of north! Recommend

  • mgkhattak

    Pakistan , all about you.
    Pakistan , where you matters.
    Pakistan , rich in history warm in hospitality ( rightly said )
    Pakistan , unsnarl the true happinessRecommend

  • Xam Xaffa

    WonderfuL ArticLe.Recommend

  • parvez

    This was a fun read.
    Tag line : Pakistan and tourism just don’t go together – come see for yourself.Recommend

  • sars

    how about “welcome to pakistan, we have made lots of mistakes but want to try harder now”.Recommend

  • Dr,A.K.Tewari

    It is Only through a revolution against the Islamic forces a secular democratic Pakistan can emerge in the present land of impure .Recommend

  • A Man of Hope

    great optimism dude. the vibes you give out are just the contribution this country needs from its people Recommend

  • Bigboy

    Can we please have a write-up on Pakistan without the word ‘India’ in it.Recommend

  • Parvez

    @A Man of Hope : Sorry dude its time we woke up. 64 years of living on hope is a long time.Recommend

  • Fahad siddiqui

    Visit Pakistan…….. Visit heavens ….


    OR ab target killing ky sath suicide bombing bilkul free….

    Tamam tourist apni jan ki hifazat khud Karen…. Goli lag janay ki surat ma apni embassy sy rabta karyn….. sukriyaRecommend

  • Tanoli of karachi.

    @ Maryam yess sister it is wonderfull place to visit its our bad luck we are unable to solve
    our problems. may allah bless pakistan a place like no where.Recommend

  • Raj

    @Tanoli of karachi.: North of every country is always more giving, North of North Pakistan is even better…North of North of North Pakistan is much better. N of N of N of N of N of Pakistan is Maghrib..every Pakistani hates Maghrib and privately wants to migrate to the West including USA. BTW you are in USA sir..Recommend

  • karim

    Lets see the coin flipped and exploreRecommend

  • zohaib naseer


  • optimist

    I only see one solution: that we demand another Pakistan WITHIN Pakistan. A Pakistan for secular people. Mullahs can live on the other side and let us prosper!Recommend

  • Tanoli of karachi.

    @ Raj its like hate arabs but love oil my friend world is strange place same way hate
    mughals aurangzaib alamgir but make billions of $ from there monuments is not strange.
    this is maghrib and mashriq doing.Recommend

  • Salman Arshad

    This is easy:

    Not India. Pakistan!
    Fort of Islam.
    We are The Muslims.
    Islamic Hospitality. Islamic Culture.
    Where Islam Thrives!

    We should target Muslim tourists, not “western”, because we don’t have beaches and clubs, nor are we going to allow that.Recommend

  • rehmat

    @Salman Arshad:

    “We should target Muslim tourists, not “western”, because we don’t have beaches and clubs, nor are we going to allow that”.

    So why should Muslim tourists visit Pakistan for Islamic hospitality rather than Malaysia, Turkey or Egypt? Your post did not provide a clue.Recommend

  • SK – Salman

    @Laleen: Your response to Great Jaat is abhoring. People like Great Jaat, Abhi, and other Indian trolls, and their parochial hate towards others, is the reason why we had to leave India. Read some history to see how they made it impossible to plan to be in one united country. And for a different perspective: last year my friend, a London resident, had to be carried back on a stretcher in Air India, after falling sick from eating pani puris (gol gappes) in Chowpatti in Bombay. Another friend’s daughter, an American, visited India and was literally throwing up seeing the poverty and the street begging. In all fairness she may have suffered the same fate, pretty much, in Pakistan too, I suppose. But India is no heaven to compare with. I also ran into a Swiss lady last year in December in one of the Karachi’s hotels, and she said she loved Karachi, which she was visiting for the first time. She said she was coming from the Sundarben (Bangladesh) and Mumbai (India) prior to that. She said she could easily live in Karachi and have fun. Recommend

  • Tanoli of karachi.

    @ Salman arshad just balh blah blah blah keep it with u man.Recommend

  • My Name is Khan

    @ SK – Salman – why is Laaleen’s response bad? Why can’t we just accept that we have more in common with India than we do with Saudi Arabia? Why can’t we be good Muslims and accept that our heritage had yoga in it? I’m okay with having a Bollywood movie as my screen name. I don’t feel “offended” by India and can be a proud Pakistani.

    The author’s dragging India into the article just makes the Indian commenters reinforce their belief that Pakistani can’t define itself outside of being “anti India”. You reinforce that with your comments. I don’t want to debate partition. We live in 2011.

    We have millions of brothers both Muslim and non-Muslim in India. They are happy. Salman Khan, Sharrukh Khan, Zaheer Khan,… need I go on? Can we just accept India as our neighbor and move on positively?Recommend

  • Great Jaat

    @My Name is Khan: The situation has become so bad that even people who mean well are misunderstood and targeted. Pakistanis who search for their roots in Arab lands are the most ridiculous.Recommend

  • Salman Arshad

    @ Rehmat:

    We have taken great steps in order to scrape off any non-Muslim identity we inherited from India.
    I think this is our “strong” point.

    Malaysia, Indonesia and Turkey have beaches that are not segregated. Alcohol is openly available at groceries. That is not Islamic culture. We are purely Islamic. You will be killed in Pakistan for committing crimes and atrocities of that nature.
    So anyway, here are some on the “purity” theme:

    – Pakistan. Purely Islam.
    – We Know Green From White!
    – Pure Land. Pure People. Pure Islam.
    – Our Name is Purity.
    – We Explode Peacefully. Recommend

  • hariharmani

    Mr salman Arshad,my name is Khan and many possitive bloggers,keep up the good work.Swear to be fair and even handed,have and abhor malice for any religion,culture and society,aboue all be better than none and inferrior to none.It is very hard to live and be part of a culture and retain once ‘better Angeles’of once nature in a muddy and polluted water,but what one has to do when one has very few options,other than refuse to conteminate self?All nations who are now a ‘devloped nation have paid a price and their climb from the hell hole has been hard and long,but they have made it after hard and heavy lift and climb,the other day a right fundamental nut killed 81 people in’ peaceful’Norway,do they quit and blame others?Progress is slow and narrow road,there will be hic-ups and failures,but a society which refuses to see its obvious flaws and warts ,has less chances to climb out of the hole,I’m student of history and well versed in Indo-Pak problems and partition,but I will never take side yet I will not be a stupid son of a gun,and like blue eyed libreals, gloss over excess ,and look for excuses,that seperates me from dogmatic and worthless idealoques.We have to be intellectually honest to atleast ourself.To me this one reason we in sub-continent have no chance to be progressive society in near future,our problem1)we are too dogamatic religious2)too corrupt,3)very self-fish people,prone to bragging,arrogent,very selective ethics,very poor sense of right and wrong,finally we as a nation have been left behind on the platform and train has reached the next station-that is over populated land,read the colum in “the Dawn’about the most of our political and economic problem we have facing since 47 is unchecked population explosion,we breed like ‘Rabbits’.Recommend

  • Hira Z A

    Pakistan … home to Meera Jee

    Pakistan … home to Mango vegetableRecommend

  • A Man of Hope

    @Hira Z A:
    Lol- Meera definitely would be a crowd puller!Recommend

  • Lahore wich Thirty Lacks in your Pocket

    I have a few suggestions:

    Pakistan: The land where King Porous defeated Alexander the Great.

    Pakistan: 5 Rivers, 2 Civilizations, Himalaya’s and the Arabian Kissed Seas.

    Pakistan: from the Valleys of Kashmir, to the top of K2, from the plains of punjab to the bottom of the Arabian Sea! The diversity of Nature and Beauty of the people of Pakistan!

    Pakistan: Incredibly Passionate Travel’s of Pakistan. Through danger and awe!

    Pakistan: Made for Thrill Seeking Individuals.

    Pakistan: A victim of the Great Game.

    Pakistan: Where you are always 10 seconds away from Paradise. Recommend

  • Tanoli

    @ Lahore wich i think one more u forgot to mention Pakistan where world powers got defeats, beaten, and broke.Recommend

  • http://[email protected] Lam

    Absolutely loved the article & this is a topic my friends & I often discuss. We need a good slogan for Pakistan but our tourism industry needs to get it’s act together & get the message across too. Recommend

  • parvati

    For pakistan Tourism tagline must be…

    Have blast till you last


  • Sara

    Pakistan: Rich in History, Warm in Hospitality!Recommend

  • gp65

    @Tanoli of karachi.:
    ” hatemughals aurangzaib alamgir but make billions of $ from there monuments”

    Indians DO have a problem with Aurangzeb because he tortured Hindus. But they do not have a problem with all Mughals and in fact Akbar is highly looked up to. Mughalai cuisine is popular in India also and some of the poshest roads in Delhi are named after Mughal emperors like Shah Jahan and Akbar.

    The last time I checked no-one is marketing any monument made by AurangzebRecommend

  • gp65

    Yes. Pakistan does have a ricj history but most of it is pre-Islamic and the Pakistani peope seem to be actively disowning that history.
    @Salman Arshad:
    SP your point is that a couple should visit Pakistan so that they cannot spend time together on the seggregated beaches of Karachi and they risk being killed if they should drink a mug of beer.

    think about it, if religious tourism is what a Muslim wants they will go to Saudi Arabia NOT Pakistan. IT has all the things you mentioned and in fact even more e.g. women cannot drive or go anywhere without Mehrams PLUS people can also do Umrah/Hakk while they are there. Why should they come to Pakistan?Recommend

  • http://- Nietzsche

    I second that.
    Tag-line: Pakistan – The feel-good expedition.Recommend