In the tradition-bound and caste-ridden society of the subcontinent, there has been a reliance and allocation of tasks for particular professions. For example, the well-to-do have a tendency of having their own personalised network among the proletariat professions. It is common to see the affluent having at their homes their own tailors, barbers, tillers, carpenters, cobblers, and laundry workers.
The insecurities of the opulent classes cannot be underestimated. Predators prey upon it. That is why the sycophantic breed is in no danger of becoming an endangered species. Their constant refrain to willing and responsive ears is: “Sir, your performance is excellent, but your media is weak and is not narrating the story effectively of your accomplishments.”
Of course, it is hardly emphasised how much of a hard sell it is to market a bad product. Simply put, the bad product has not, cannot, and will not work. Pakistan polity is toxic with politicians without substance and policies that don’t perform.
Now, even the cricket board has a PR crew whose job it is to market that Pakistan’s cricket is doing well despite ample evidence to the contrary. The focus is not on performance on the field, but on PR outside the field.
The malady has spread wide and deep. India brazenly bills itself as the “world’s largest democracy”, while continuing its horrific abuses of human rights against its minorities and lower caste segments of the majority faith. Israel calls itself the “only democracy in the Middle East” – a view clearly not shared by the Palestinians.
Hillary Clinton offers another vivid sample of someone who has masked her foreign policy failures beneath a smooth PR makeup. That façade crumbled when a crowd in the Egyptian city of Alexandria pelted Hillary’s motorcade with shoes and tomatoes. The late President Richard Nixon, who is now commonly reviled in America, had far more substantive accomplishments to show but has not been given his historic due. When he visited Egypt in June 1974, during the last days of his Watergate-shattered presidency, he received a rousing reception from the Egyptian public.
The culture of the subcontinent has been a fertile breeding ground for those who cannot sustain themselves on the basis of performance, but instead compensate through shortcut avenues by leg-pulling and manoeuvring. It is a sickening sight then to see the vulgar overkill of banners, posters, photos, verses, and taranas worshipping the powerful. These practices often verge on paganism and are abhorrent to Islamic values.
The dervish are the immortals of the region. Through the enduring impact of their good deeds, they live on in the public imagination.
PR is not the solution to fixing problems; sometimes, it becomes the problem itself. For a clean and green Pakistan, the spark of reawakening has to be lit within - not later, but now!
n The writer is an attorney-at-law and policy analyst based in Washington DC. He is the first Pakistani American member admitted to the US Supreme Court Bar.