International, Lifestyle

European travel blogger becomes Pakistan’s new internet sensation

A young Polish travel vlogger became a celebrity in Pakistan after her “efforts to promote tourism and environmental conservation” became popular in the South Asian nation.

Why I Love Pakistan / Independence Day 2018 🇵🇰

Happy Independence Day, Pakistan! 💚🇵🇰

Posted by Eva zu Beck on Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Eva Bianka Zubeck started her Pakistan tour, exploring the territorial landscape and discovering the country’s cultural heritage, three months ago.

But she gained “national fame” earlier this week after her Kiki Challenge video, celebrating the country’s Independence Day, went viral for what was considered to be the wrong reason.

Her performance, in which she donned the country’s flag on an empty, parked Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane was considered a cute gesture by many. Some, however, including a top National Accountability Bureau (NAB) official, have other views.

Why the furor?

NAB Chairman Javed Iqbal said the woman disrespected the flag by wrapping it around her body and the airline violated the security codes both of the national airlines and the airport. He also ordered a probe into the incident.

A tweet on August 12 from the PIA suggested the airline collaborated with the vlogger to celebrate “Independence Day in style never before attempted in the world”.

But after the NAB uproar, both Zubeck and the airline deleted the Kiki Challenge video from their social media accounts.

Though the airline has remained silent, the women issued an explanation for why she performed the video, saying it was “a fun way to promote tourism in Pakistan.” She, however, apologized in a video message to those who did not like it, saying her intention was to promote culture and people of Pakistan.

The NAB chief received a sharp rebuke from mainstream media as well as social media users who rejected his interpretation of the video and also challenged his authority to interfere in such a trivial matter.

“Has NAB nothing better to do than play morality police and make a ridiculous exploit look like a national security breach?” Pakistan’s English-language daily DAWN questioned in an editorial.

A Karachi-based journalist Zahid Hussain Khan said it is an unnecessary controversy, and the “moral brigade’s objection is shameful.”

“A foreign female’s efforts to promote tourism in a terror-stricken country with the weak tourism industry, which hardly gets foreign tourists, are laudable,” he said in a phone conversation with CGTN Digital on Friday.

Despite being deleted from both her and the airline’s official accounts, Zubeck’s footage is still making rounds on the Internet, becoming a viral sensation in the country.

Many, including PM-in-waiting Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, supported the Polish vlogger.

“Pakistan welcomes tourists from all around the world to explore the beauty of Pakistan and promote the positive image of Pakistan on the international level. Traveler and friend of Pakistan, Eva Zubeck, is warmly welcomed to explore the unexplored beauty of Pakistan,” PTI said in a statement earlier this week.

During her trip, Zubeck collaborated with the Green Squad, a local nature conservation organization, and planted ten trees on Pakistan’s Independence Day as part of their initiative in the capital, Islamabad.

Zubeck’s positive gestures come at a time when the PIA, as well as country’s the tourism industry, are facing significant challenges. According to reports in the local media, the PIA has been criticized for going into the red.

It is not the first time that the firm is in the media spotlight for an issue involving a foreigner.

In May last year, a video went viral showing a PIA pilot leaving the flight deck to invite a young Chinese woman to join him in the cockpit during a flight from Tokyo to Beijing.

The woman reportedly stayed in there for two hours after the plane landed.

A PIA spokesperson was quoted in the local media as saying that a passenger entering the cockpit doesn’t jeopardize aircraft safety.

Under civil aviation rules, a pilot-in-command may allow a person to enter the cockpit, he said.

[Cover Photo: A screengrabbed image taken from Eva Bianka Zubeck’s Kiki Challange video]

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