Concerted efforts needed to promote soft image of Pakistan: Gilani

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani said on Tuesday that concerted efforts were needed to promote a soft image of Pakistan and to provide Pakistanis with a sense of pride in their heritage.Speaking at the inauguration of an exhibition “Cultural Products: Connecting People Through Crafts at Lok Virsa”, he said safeguarding, protecting and preserving the cultural heritage of Pakistan was the collective moral responsibility of the nation.The exhibition was organized in cooperation with UNESCO and Norway to display crafts of women from Multan, Bahawalpur and Dera Ghazi Khan.Prime Minister Gilani said Pakistan had rich and diverse culture and also remarkable potential which had remained hidden in the plains of South Punjab.“Our heritage comprises values, knowledge and skills, distinguishing the identities of our region.”He said over thousands of years mankind has left indelible footprints, both on the landscape and culture of Pakistan.

These influences of varied and diverse cultures are beautifully woven into the country’s historic fabric like threads of a colorful tapestry. The people of Pakistan indeed have more than one reason to be the proud custodians of this treasure trove that needs to be highlighted and promoted, he added.The Prime Minister said, “we have never projected the significance of our culture, which in its diverse forms is one of the most crucial tasks in pursuing objectives of peace, national integration and national cohesion as well as for creating a better image of Pakistan.”He said it was now time for all to put heads together and revisit the perception about culture as a useful and common resource.Gilani underlined the need for long term commitment of experts and local communities to ensure that the varied forms of heritage, both tangible and intangible were properly managed and their unique cultural values were preserved.“We need to go a step ahead and start thinking about culture as a vehicle for development and economic empowerment. Today’s event is not only a reminder of the persistence and determination of Pakistani women, but also a reflection of the extremely rich cultural history of South Punjab.”The display of various arts and crafts is a story of an unexplored region waiting to make its way towards joining the mainstream of cultural industries, he added.Gilani said the concept of creative industries had arisen as a timely response to the challenges of the 21st Century, an era where the concept and content of competitiveness at national and international level was given a new meaning thus opening new avenues of opportunity.

“We need to build a community that is creative, cohesive and resilient through creativity in arts and culture, as well as preservation of its heritage.”He said that culture would be a constant source of inspiration to propel the economy to thrive and advance in the face of fierce competition from different parts of the world.“Despite the unmatchable richness and novelty of Pakistan’s handicrafts, the sector remains largely unexplored and unstructured.  We do not even have proper quantitative data to help demonstrate the value of the cultural programmes in development processes and their contribution to economic development at the national level and this is a gap which we must move fast to fulfill.”He said, “we hope to develop a policy, which takes into account the promotion of identities, image building and sustainable development. The policy may over arch the national perspective and adopt a broader perspective to meet the tide of globalization both as a challenge and as an opportunity.”The cultural policy will become an important component for a development strategy and promote cultural industries as well as cultural tourism, he added.Gilani said, “We must remember that tourism is always subservient to culture. If we have a rich and well-preserved culture to offer, the tourism industry will inevitably grow and prosper.”Federal Minister for Culture Pir Aftab Shah Jilani, Norwegian Ambassador Terje Brastad, Representative of UNESCO Ms Farhat Gul and Executive Director THAAP Prof. Sajida Haider Vandal also spoke on the occasion – App