• 20 May 2022
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Gora Complex in Pakistan

Gora Complex in Pakistan

When Geo first aired “George ka Pakistan” back in 2005 about an American citizen, George Fulton, who struggled to gain an understanding of Pakistan and its citizens, the country got its first taste of validation from a Gora, and the rest, as they say, is history. George was everywhere, be it in the media, getting paid to be in advertisements, and even receiving nationality from the then Prime Minister, Shaukat Aziz.

But then when he tried to own his adopted country by critically pointing out its many flaws, his fall from grace was legendary. Criticism came from the fact that a foreigner was supposed to follow a certain script that was looking for a way out of its image as a safe harbor for terrorists and a country full of corrupted individuals. Foreigners are tolerated in Pakistan as long as they stick to the script, and continue to be cheerleaders for the fact that they are represented unfairly in international media.

In that sense, Eva Zu Beck is like the second coming of George, she’s a British citizen who has visited Pakistan numerous times and seems to be in love with Pakistan. She simply can’t get enough of Pakistan and Pakistanis can’t get enough of her. When she first visited the country, she had around 1,000 followers, now Eva has around 1.41 million subscribers on YouTube and 700k followers on Instagram. Of course, it hasn’t been smooth sailing for Eva. Part of her fame comes from the fact that she received harsh criticism for dancing with a Pakistani flag inside a PIA plane. But she stuck to her purpose, continuing to say good things about the country, and making her vlogs with the full support of some “established” circles in Pakistan.

Her travel vlogs, Cynthis D. Ritchie’s perfectly photographed pictures showing the natural beauty of Pakistan, Mark Wien’s food vlogs of Lahore Gujranwala and Islamabad, and a recent state-sponsored collaboration among eight foreign vloggers, all seem to have suddenly put Pakistan on the forefront of nature tourism. Taking pictures and videos that capture its high mountains, grand roads, and hospitable people, was mixing well with the previous government’s emphasis on tourism. But are these foreign vloggers given more privilege over local and more authentic vloggers simply for being white and more willing to accept the state-sponsored narrative of beauty and perfection?

A well-known travel agent says that getting a foreign vlogger’s validation can add credibility to the idea of Pakistan being a haven for foreign tourists, but foreigners must have enough knowledge and credibility of traveling in Pakistan. Here, Alex from “Lost with Purpose” can be a good option. She has traveled extensively throughout Pakistan multiple times and has more information about the country than an average local Pakistani. But she does not get selected for any of the marketing campaigns because she looks more Asian than a typical white American.

While most of the vloggers gained their fame through Pakistan gaining millions of followers on their YouTube and Instagram pages, the real outreach came from those who already have a well-established and strong following before coming to Pakistan. Mark Wien’s food vlogs are a real gain for Pakistan in this regard.

Although some local vloggers have tried the trusted route of scenic pictures and aesthetic framing and praise for hospitality, perhaps it’s time for a deeper exploration of the culture of this country. Where are the videos that show our decadent tourist facilities? Or the way the people of Murree treat the tourist in such harsh conditions that they are forced to sleep in their cars and risk dying in their sleep instead of living in overly expensive hotel rooms?

They should also need to be beyond massaging the Pakistani egos who have grown up with an inferiority complex about the way their country has always been treated on international platforms.

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