If you want to get people to listen to your message, you need to make it interesting. Many campaigns struggle to bridge the gap between imploring and entertaining.

This is particularly a problem in Pakistan, where, with the exception of music and political skulduggery, Pakistani media is pretty dull. Which is why most Pakistanis watch Indian films or US entertainment (no link since hard numbers are near impossible to come by).

Pakistan's largest media organisation, Jang Group, has been running a campaign for a couple of years called Amn Ka Asha, which aims to promote peace and better relations with India.

Much of the campaign has been about the usual; visits, articles etc etc. But recently, Geo (Jang's flagship television station) has announced two new Pakistan-India themed shows. They aren't branded after the campaign, but it very much works on the Amn Ka Asha ethos. Both will show on Geo and a major Indian channel.

The Independent reports that Foodistan will be a Pakistan vs India cook off.

"Neatly bringing together two national pastimes of eating and regional rivalry, the reality cooking show Foodistan will pitch a team of professional Pakistani chefs against a team from India."

The other, Sur Ki Bazi, sounds like an X-Factor type format pitting Pakistani and Indian hopefuls against each other in a singing duel.

Here's the poster:

Music, food and regional rivalry. It's a sure bet! Foodistan has already been recorded, but the music show just started auditioning. And, Londonstani is hearing that they have been swamped.

This is a genius campaign idea. On one hand it shows that there's much scope for useful engagement in Pakistan through media. On the other, it shows that it pays to work with what people actually want.

If you are into communications, media and foreign policy (like Londonstani), this is worth keeping an eye on.

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AuthorLondonstani

US scholar of public diplomacy, Philip Seib, wrote on the Huffington Post a couple of days ago:

"Those designing U.S. public diplomacy must quickly recalibrate their work to better reach the newly empowered and assertive mass publics."

Seib suggests:

"A key element of U.S. public diplomacy is the reflection of American political values in outreach efforts. These values are not antithetical to the tenets of Islam, and so that is where public diplomacy programs should focus. Those designing cultural, educational, and business-related ventures should themselves be familiar with the Quran and other elements of Islam and should involve clerical and lay Muslims in the project creation process. This will help avoid the accidental cultural clashes that can be interpreted as purposeful assertion of anti-Islamic policy."

Londonstani agrees in principle with Seib on this, but would suggest digging a little deeper in the search for an approach. 

Often, Islamists (which encompasses many different trains of thought) are cut from a very similar cloth to their domestic opponents. Looking at Pakistan; the head of a network of madrassas is the theological equivalent of a feudal landlord or industrialist. All are looking to nurture a solid constituency based on patronage. Often the religious overlaps with the temporal. Sometimes the supporters of the most avowedly secular parties act like religious devotees. Egypt; Mubarak's cronies displayed the same xenophobic, small minded, despotic, socially conservative tendencies that their liberal opponents feared they might face from the Muslim Brotherhood.

Better than focusing immense effort on one particular area of study, (which might be axed at will in the next round of cuts) Londonstani feels that governments would be better served by looking at their bureaucratic structures and figuring out how to build up institutional knowledge of how Arab and Muslim societies work.

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AuthorLondonstani