Pakistan has just begun its ‘Naya’ Chapter with the announcement of a formidable 100 day agenda by Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan and his party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). From the creation of a Medina styled Islamic welfare state, to the recovery of billions laundered abroad, the PTI has set an exceptionally high bar for itself. Wanting to break-away from the status quo, they also promised across the board reforms, paving the way for a new Pakistan! However, before we start to praise and applaud the PTI’s reformist ideals, we must pause and ask how pragmatic the implementation of these ideals will be in a largely divided Pakistan. With a narrow lead over the opposition in the parliament, passing legislation may prove easier said than done. More importantly, large scale reforms and cataclysmic changes to the system require nationwide support from the populace. Indeed, it is every Pakistani’s dream to see a prosperous, developing and dignified Pakistan, but do we think that Khan and his team are the right people for the job? In less than a month after assuming power, we see the government embroiled in one scandal after the other, some more serious than others. More importantly, today we see a Pakistan that is polarised beyond recognition, and Imran Khan and the PTI have made a sizeable contribution in this regard. During the last five years, we have witnessed Khan’s PTI take populist regressive stances on the rights of minorities and women. We have seen them stereotype opposition and extend support to the extreme right. We have seen hints of fascism and the inability to engage in constructive dialogue. As a result of which we see the population, especially the youth, succumbing to political tribalism. The latest episode was the appointment of Dr Atif Mian to the Economic Advisory Council. This was a welcome decision, luminescent of hope and inclusivity, only to be overturned after four short days. The ensuing discussion over social media and other platforms was a glaring example of how divided we have become as a nation. When local authorities are given the power to build houses, open parks and recreation centres — they strengthen communities — which in turn become stronger cities Pakistan has never had a homogenous entity, with its various cultures, languages, sects and baradari’s. But today, we are seeing these historic divides deepen. In addition, we can observe the pillars of state at loggerheads with each other, with one trespassing in the jurisdiction of the other. We hear echoes of descent emanating from the tribal regions, and calls of suppression from Balochistan. What we lack is national integration, and what we require is a large scale nation-building exercise. The idea of nation-building is not just limited to the provision of democracy, good governance, security and a stable economy but extends to community building, use of soft power, promotion of culture and sport, as well as building up the country as a brand. The latter are some of the most ignored facets of nation building in Pakistan and have the ability to give the populace, especially our youth, a reason for national pride. Community building begins at the grassroots level, which means the central government needs to let go of power so that decisions are taken at the local level. When local authorities are given the power to build houses, open parks and recreation centres — they strengthen communities — which in turn become stronger cities. Perhaps the most important aspect of community building is to ensure and instil tolerance. To build a community where people are free to worship, free to associate and free to express themselves; which means there would be no room for a repetition of the Atif Mian fiasco. The use of soft power through promotion of culture and sport in order to project a positive image of the country is a largely effective but under-utilised tool. Pakistan’s image abroad is mostly associated with terrorism and militancy resulting from an absence of soft power ambassadors. Surely, Imran Khan with his cricketing background should be able to understand and harness the potential of sports and culture. Nothing unites the people of Pakistan more than a good game of cricket. International events such as the IPL need to be expanded with more funding and resources in order to attract athletes from around the world. Similarly, Pakistan’s culture has been suppressed for far too long. A revival of the arts, theatre and film industry is the need to of the hour. Pakistan needs platforms to tell its story and showcase the positives, and present a counter narrative to the world. What we need are progressive and innovative people dedicated towards developing a robust sports and culture policy. Unfortunately, not much can be achieved so long as people like Fayyaz ul Hassan Chohan are running the show. Finally and most importantly, we need to start building up the brand; Pakistan. We need to package ourselves in a way that showcases our unique selling points. Pakistan is one of the most naturally endowed countries, with hospitable people, and an untapped potential for growth. A positive brand attracts investors and creates economic opportunity. A specialised task force consisting of members from the business community, performing arts, tourism and sport needs to be created to undertake this task. As our nation ages, we must find an answer to the question of how we will remember our history. Will we continue to be a nation rife with intolerance, bigotry and narrow-mindedness or will we rise to our challenges and become inclusive, progressive and welcoming? It is only when we have a united people will we able to tackle the larger challenges of security, economy and governance. The time has come for PM Imran Khan to make difficult decisions and stand by them. Only then will he be able to earn the respect of his critics and unite the people of Pakistan. The writer works for an International think tank in Islamabad. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. He tweets at @faduhaider Published in Daily Times, September 15th 2018.