9/11 in the US and 7/7 in the UK were what can be called the beginning of stereotyping Pakistan as a terrorist nation. However, with time a few of these perceptions seem to be changing- as they should.

The World Trade Center destruction (9/11) led to an affirmation of broad brushed references to Islam and Muslims in all sections of media. The London bombings of 7th July, 2005(7/7) raised similar concerns in Britain; when this violent attack took place in the UK, the rules and laws were hardened for  young British Muslims. Everyone contributed towards this isolation of the minority; whether they were journalists, policymakers or academics.
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Whatever were their missions to accomplish, Pakistan became directly related to these destructive mishaps. Since 9/11, Islam has been fenced by topics like terrorism, radicalization, incompatibility and conflict. While there is nothing wrong in discussing said topics, the opinions and reviews about Pakistan are somehow always overshadowed by a destructive approach.

Perceptions of Muslims and Pakistan

Muslims tend to see themselves as a minority and want to increase the members of their community because they feel unsafe, confined in their own areas, rather than as members of a universal religion well-entrenched in societies and cultures. The United States and Europe tend to see Pakistan as a terror sponsoring state with no control over its military.  Nawaz Sharif speaks of peace, yet the world knows that nuclear proliferation began with Pakistan, and it is one country that is capable of putting high density nukes in the hands of terrorists. Pakistan is a terror state and no doubt about it. Its military is pro-al Qaeda and pro-Taliban. Its nuclear arsenal is always at the risk of being acquired by terror outfits.

Changing Perceptions in the United Kingdom

However, the time has gone when the British  thought of Pakistan as an evil country; now, the association between UK and Pakistan is improving in terms of trade. Around 80,000 to 100,000 British people travel, live and work in Pakistan. Furthermore, over 2 billion Euros worth of trade flows between the two nations; with more than 100 companies of the UK presently functioning in Pakistan with a high amount of investment returns. Entrepreneurs are trying to increase the number of companies between now and 2015. The British government gives permission to these entrepreneurs to work closely with Pakistan to increase business relationships. UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) services offer expertise and contacts through which anyone can easily set up their business without any extra business rules for the foreign entities. UK Trade and Investment in Pakistan helps firms that belong to Britain increase their competitiveness through overseas trade in Pakistan by offering authoritative and personalised assistance to expand businesses with Pakistan. To support all the entrepreneurs and maintain these business links well, Pakistan also makes many efforts like maintaining all up-to-date travel information and campaigns to make them comfortable and help them to travel safely, help and support business nationals who are in difficulty or distress.

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There are many actions taken by the UK government like:

1) They are working with the Pakistan to maintain a stable and political settlement.

2) Pakistan and the UK have committed to working together to overcome violent extremism and organised terrorism which are shared threats to the countries.

3) Security relations and defense have become strong between Britain and Pakistan which contribute to the mutual security by helping to build regional stability and understanding.

4) Britain supports the constitutional democracy in Pakistan.

5) The UK wants to remove poverty and help them to build a stable and prosperous country.

pakistan US ties Perceptions of Pakistan: A Time for Change?

RAWALPINDI, Dec. 16, 2013 (Xinhua/IANS) — Photo released by Pakistan’s Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) on Dec. 16, 2013 shows Pakistan’s new army chief General Raheel Sharif (R) meets with visiting Commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) General Joseph Dunford in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. General Joseph Dunford on Monday met Pakistan military leaders and discussed security matters, the military and the U.S. embassy said. “It was a routine coordination visit, the two discussed matters of mutual interest with particular focus on Pakistan-Afghanistan Border coordination mechanism,” a military statement said. (Xinhua/ISPR)

In British, the Pakistanis are and always have been a minority and their perceptions of the community have not been very good about them because of the various terrorist attacks which always led back to them . This led to hardening of laws and policies for British Muslims. However, there has been a positive change in the perceptions of people towards Pakistan. Whether or not the destruction was caused by elements from Pakistan is not the crux of the matter; what is to be remembered is that the actions of a few individuals do not represent an entire country. It will take time to understand this and the relationship with Pakistan to change, but, like the UK, all nations should strive to maintain peace and stability while contributing to the economic growth of the country.

By Chhavi Chaudhary

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