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Reforming Pakistan’s perception

The recent assassination attempt on Mufti Taqi Usmani in Karachi has sent shock waves across the country. While Mufti Usmani survived the assassination attempt on his life, two of his guards were killed in the incident. The outpouring of support and sympathy with the deceased and the survivor which was expressed by all religious sects show that the attempt was hardly a result of any sectarian conflict. Rather, the attempt was aimed at creating a sectarian conflict and that too in a city which has seen countless deadly phases of such conflicts.
This was not only an attempt on the life of an individual who is highly regarded in all religious circles. The question is why someone would want to assassinate the leader of an organisation which has only called for peace and harmony even during years when sectarian wars and interfaith conflicts were making headlines? Moreover, the development is also disturbing for the incident took place in Karachi – a city that has remained peaceful for some time due to the ongoing counterterrorism efforts.
All states go through difficult times and make tough choices due to various internal and external security threats which turn out to be costly at times. In this regard, Pakistan has experienced some tough phases which not only cost the country economically but also put a lot of strain on its soft image internationally. While physical security – economic or otherwise – matters, perception and the value of soft power cannot be neglected in this age and time when information travels faster than anything. While the physical security of a state matters a lot for the rulers of that state, the perception of ‘how secure a state is’ matters a lot in the eyes of the international community. In the 21st century, arguably, perception regarding how a state handles a matter in terms of how the international community views it is going to remain an essential factor when it comes to measuring diplomatic, economic or other progress of a state.
Arguably, the agenda behind the assassination of Mufti Usmani stretches beyond the targeted individual’s life. Essentially, this was a development which could have implications at the national level, send erroneous perception internationally and undermine the state’s ongoing efforts in Karachi to bring back peace to the metropolis. Moreover, this was particularly done at a time when Pakistan is making headlines for its efforts to shred the looming image of a country where sectarianism can proliferate.
As Pakistan makes an effort to rewrite its usually misconstrued perception of being a state where religious intolerance may be rife or a state whose overall security image comes across as fickle, we need to make sure that cowardly efforts such as an attempt on the life of Mufti Usmani are understood and exposed in its literal sense. Here is another query: who would want to gain from rescinding religious harmony in Pakistan and pushing with a narrative of an insecure country? Who would be interested in killing a leader whose contributions toward promoting peace are exemplary? The answer to these questions rests with who would want to gain at the expense of Pakistan? Clearly, the last month’s events concerning Pakistan’s conflict with India and sanctuaries of various militant groups in Afghanistan are a clear threat. One of the things that remained a highlight of the recent conflict with India was Pakistan’s ability to not only thwart and expose India’s wars plans but also the propaganda and perception war. While the state is doing what it can, public also needs to play a role when it comes to defeating and exposing Pakistan’s foes plans to undermine Pakistan’s efforts to unlock its real potentials and become a regional power. Pakistan of today is different than Pakistan of the past.



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