Pakistan needs to unapologetically tell its narrative to the world, says NSA Moeed Yusuf

National Security Adviser (NSA) Moeed Yusuf on Thursday said that Pakistan needed to “unapologetically” share its narrative with the world.

Speaking at a seminar in Islamabad on national narratives, Yusuf outlined three words that encapsulated his approach to narratives: proactive, unapologetic, and pragmatic.

“Virtually every time we communicate, these three principles can get us anywhere we want to go. There is no reason for Pakistan to be shy because we have nothing to hide.

“The fact of the matter is that we have absorbed Western narratives of Pakistan to the point that even internally, there is a debate on whether Pakistan’s narrative is the correct one,” he said.

Yusuf said this was “mindboggling” for him since according to him, Pakistan had a “real story” to tell based on what the country was doing and stood for. “There is absolutely no reason to be apologetic about it,” he added.

The NSA outlined his experience when he came into government and elaborated on what he had found to be different, saying that for the first time he “realized that Pakistan has a real positive story to tell the world”.

“We actually have a story that is compelling, logical [and] true, which we must put out to the world for them to understand who we are and what we stand for.”

Outlining the problems he had identified, Yusuf said the most “important one … which bothered me the most and continues to” was a supposed element in Pakistan’s culture of communication — more internationally than domestically — of being “shy in presenting our view unapologetically”.

He questioned that when Pakistan had a story to tell and knew how to tell it, then why wasn’t this conversation being done “far more unapologetically — not emotively — to clarify that Pakistan is going to do XYZ because it’s in our strategic interests”.

Explaining the other problems, Yusuf said Pakistan was lagging behind other countries in rapid strategic communication using modern platforms and mediums such as social media.

“We were living in the world — and to some extent maybe even today — of public relations, press releases [and] responding to things at our own time. The world has moved on.”

Another problem, according to him, was “speaking our language to others and expecting them to understand what we’re saying”. Yusuf said the same narratives and talking points couldn’t be used everywhere in front of every audience on every occasion.

Apart from just the content, he added that it also mattered who was delivering the message and how they were delivering it.

The NSA also questioned why Pakistanis weren’t being heard more and why more people were not presenting their point of view through writing or public appearances.

“How many Pakistanis who understand Pakistan are in think tanks in key capitals?” he asked.

He said people with an understanding of the country’s internal context were needed instead of an outsider’s perspective.

‘One national narrative’

The NSA also elaborated on his perspective of a national narrative, saying that he didn’t believe in striving towards a singular narrative.

“I think there are multiple narratives that have to come together to create a whole which is what Pakistan stands for as a country and as a nation. Narratives always have to reflect reality.”

He said there was a difference between how Pakistan and other countries — pointing out India in particular — approached the narrative building.

“Our model is to project our rightful reality to the world. Their model is to create a whole global network of fake news to malign others,” Yusuf said, referring to the EU DisinfoLab report that uncovered a vast network of coordinated fake local media outlets in 65 countries serving Indian interests, as well as multiple dubious think tanks and NGOs.

“When you show planes flying over the UK as planes belonging to Pakistan flying in Panjshir then you will be debunked and humiliated for that.”

Policy prerequisites for creating narratives

The NSA said certain prerequisites were needed for creating narratives. One of them was having a “whole-of-government-coordinated-approach”.

“You can’t have narratives in which you are inherently contradictory about what you’re telling the world,” he explained, adding that better coordination would mean better results.

Yusuf also said that national narratives which didn’t have public support could not be achieved. He said national dialogue was required on the following key areas to pull this off:

  • Character as an Islamic country
  • Unity in diversity
  • Human welfare for everyone
  • Pakistan’s democratic and federal nature
  • Pakistan’s stance for peace within and in its neighbourhood

“Essentially a charter of economy, national security and identity — these three national dialogues are necessary … to bring this public buy-in to our national narratives.”

Yusuf reiterated that Pakistan needed to convince itself of its story that the world has to hear. These stories included sacrifices made by Pakistan, losses borne which were not of the country’s making, and Pakistan’s “unique” utility to the world as a “nuclear power, geoeconomic location and trade, and transit hub”, he added.

“We just need to make sure we are convinced of our own strengths,” the NSA stressed.

Yusuf said that over time “every critique would be defeated because there is not a single thing that Pakistan should not be conveying to the world [and] nothing that we should be apologetic about or hold back on.”

Rangers being called in Punjab for 60 days following clashes with TLP: Rashid

Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said on Wednesday that the Rangers were being called in to maintain law and order in Punjab for 60 days after recent clashes with the proscribed Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP).

Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, the minister said a summary in this regard has been sent to the federal cabinet for approval. However, he still requested the group to end their protest.

The minister’s remarks came as fresh violence erupted between law enforcers and TLP supporters near Sadhoke in Punjab’s Gujranwala district on Wednesday. At least four policemen were martyred and over 250 injured.

Shortly before the interior minister’s press conference, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry categorically said that TLP will not be allowed to challenge the writ of the state and will be treated as a “militant” group and not a religious party.

Speaking to the media in Islamabad after Chaudhry’s press conference, Rashid said that the group had “another agenda”.

“So I am authorising Punjab govt to call in Rangers.”

He said that he had spoken to the banned group at 3:30am last night and told them to look at the situation in the country. “I told them that the French ambassador is not even in Pakistan. This shows that they have another agenda.”

The minister said that the group had committed that it would reopen roads that it had previously blocked. He added that he had directed the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to take strict action against those spreading fake news on social media.

He said that three policemen had been martyred and 70 injured, of whom eight were in critical condition.

The minister said the TLP, which the government had already declared proscribed, could be banned internationally.

“It could be included in the list of international terrorists and then we would not be able to do anything in their case,” Rashid said, adding that he had shared this foreboding with the group.

He added that it was being said that he was being “too flexible” in the matter. “But this is my political thinking of keeping the doors open [for talks].”

Stressing the need for peace in the country, the minister said that Pakistan was under pressure. He reiterated that certain “international powers” wanted to impose sanctions on Pakistan and “had their eyes on the country’s nuclear programme”.

“This is the sixth time the TLP has done this,” he said, adding he was being “compelled” to do this press conference. “They [TLP] have become militants. In Sadhoke, they fired at police with Kalashnikovs [but] the cops only had lathis.”

Rashid said that considering the gravity of the situation, he was deploying Rangers under Article 147 of the Constitution (which allows the provincial government to entrust its functions to the federation) on the request of the provincial government, “just like in Karachi”.

Separately, a letter seen by Dawn.com showed that the provincial government has approved the requisition of paramilitary force Rangers under Section 4(2) of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), 1997 read with Article 147 of the Constitution.

According to the letter, Pakistan Rangers (Punjab) have been entrusted powers in terms of Section 4(3)(i) of ATA within Punjab to prevent the commission of terrorist acts and scheduled offences under ATA, to exercise powers of police officers provided in the Code of Criminal Procedure, read with Section 5 of ATA for a period of 60 days.

TLP workers fired bullets at officials, says Punjab IG

Separately, Punjab IG Rao Sardar Ali Khan said that the banned group had repeated its history of damaging state property and harming police officials.

Addressing a press briefing alongside Punjab government spokesperson Hasaan Khawar, the official said that the group had always challenged the state’s writ.

Mentioning the group’s sit-in at Faizabad in 2017, the official questioned whether one group could be allowed to hold the country hostage. “[They want] that laws are made according to what they desire, and foreign and internal decisions are made according to what they want.”

He said that the banned group had martyred police officials two days ago after subjecting them to violence. “Today, dozens are injured […] they fired bullets straight at us which injured 253 officials and killed four.”

He said that previously, 700 officials were injured and three were martyred. “Are police officers and law enforcers not lovers of the Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him)?”

He said that the state would not allow the group to disturb law and order. “Protecting the people of the province is our responsibility.”

TLP will now be treated as a militant group

Earlier today, the information said that the proscribed group will not be allowed to challenge the writ of the state and will be treated as a “militant” group and not a religious party.

Addressing a press conference after a meeting of the federal cabinet, Chaudhry said that the banned group was established in 2015 and since then, their modus operandi has been to come out on the roads and block them. “But there is a limit to the state’s patience”

He said that people have a right to their “ideas” but can’t be allowed to take up arms if their ideas are not heard.

“In today’s cabinet meeting, it was decided that such activities will not be tolerated. We will not tolerate those who challenge the writ of the state,” he said, adding that the Pakistani state had defeated major terrorist organisation such as Al Qaeda.

“No one should make the mistake of thinking that the state is weak. Those who made this mistake later realised they were wrong.”

Chaudhry said that the TLP had no “status” or access to arms like other terror groups. He said that a “show” had been staged the past six times, and the government had shown “great restraint”.

“We don’t want blood to be spilt but some of their [TLP’s] leadership don’t care about whether people are killed. They want blood to be spilt on the roads.”

The minister said that last time, six policemen were martyred and more than 700 injured in clashes with TLP workers. Now, three cops have been martyred in two days and more than 49 are injured, he said.

“How long will we show restraint?” the minister asked. He said that on Tuesday, Prime Minister Imran Khan had chaired a meeting which included intelligence officials.

“A clear policy decision has been taken. The banned TLP will be treated as a militant party. We will not treat them as a political party […] the rest of the country’s institutions should also play their role.”

TLP’s protest

The TLP had launched the latest round of protests in Lahore on the 12th of Rabiul Awwal, primarily to exert pressure on the Punjab government for the release of its chief, Hafiz Saad Hussain Rizvi, the son of its late founder Khadim Rizvi.

The younger Rizvi has been kept in detention by the Punjab government since April 12 for “maintenance of public order”.

Later, it had announced to march on Islamabad, prompting the government to block the routes leading to the capital. However, TLP leader Pir Ajmal Qadri had later said the purpose of the move was “respect for the Holy Prophet (PBUH)”, while also demanding Rizvi’s release.

Meanwhile, as the group’s workers had marched towards the capital, at least three policemen were martyred in clashes with them.

TLP leaders had also claimed that several of the groups’ workers had been injured in the clashes and scores were arrested, only to be released later.

Following the release of TLP workers, Rashid had said another round of talks with the group would be held at the Ministry of Interior in Islamabad.

On Monday, Rashid had assured to fulfill the commitments the government made with the TLP during negotiations a day earlier, saying the matter would be discussed during a federal cabinet meeting on Wednesday following Prime Minister Imran Khan’s return from Saudi Arabia.

A day later. Rashid had said that the government did not have any “reservations” on the TLP’s demands and there was agreement on all issues discussed with the group — except for the matter of the French ambassador’s expulsion.

However, on Wednesday the group had accused the minister of lying that matters between it and the government had been settled, adding that the protesters would now depart from Muridke soon for their announced destination of Islamabad

Song: O valley of Kashmir

History of Kashmir SolidarityDay

Renowned for its scenic beauty, Kashmir lies in the northernmost part of the Indian sub-continent, bordered by the Himalayas. At the time of the partition of India, the region was a princely state under the British Raj. The state was divided into three, now controlled by India (Jammu and Kashmir), Pakistan (Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan), and China (Aksai Chin).

The split of Kashmir between India and Pakistan has led to enmity and bloodshed with three wars between India and Pakistan over the region – in 1947, 1965, and 1999.

Pakistan considers the issue of control of Kashmir as the core issue between India and Pakistan, which has led to three wars and means that Pakistan feels they need to devote a significant portion of their national income to military budgets.

A non-working day to highlight the issue of Kashmir was first suggested by Qazi Hussain Ahmad of the Jamaat-e-Islami party in 1990. The idea was supported by Nawaz Sharif, Punjab’s Chief Minister at the time, and the Prime Minister at the time, Benazir Bhutto. The Pakistan People’s Party then declared February 5th as a public holiday.

On Kashmir Day, all government, semi-government and private offices across Pakistan will remain closed. The State Bank of Pakistan will also remain closed.

The day is marked by political rallies, marches, and speeches about Kashmir. A human chain is formed on the major route from Pakistan to Kashmir.

A one-minute silence is observed at 10 am local time in honor of the dead. Radio Pakistan broadcast a special marathon transmission focusing on different aspects of the Kashmir dispute. 

Song : O Valley of Kashmir

اے وادی کشمیر

In the United States, the New York State Assembly passed a resolution on 5 February 2021 calling on the Governor of New York to recognize the day as “Kashmir American Day”.

According to the resolution, the day is meant to recognize New York’s Kashmiri community and to “champion human rights including the freedom of religion, movement, and expression for all Kashmiri people, which are embedded within the United States Constitution, through the recognition of diverse cultural, ethnic, and religious identities.

The Pakistani mission thanked the New York lawmaker Nader Sayegh and the American Pakistani Advocacy Group for their efforts.

IS fighters massing in Afghanistan, Putin says ahead of meeting

MOSCOW: Russian Presi­dent Vladimir Putin on Friday said hundreds of fighters loyal to the militant Islamic State (IS) group were massing in northern Afghanistan, as Moscow prepares to host international talks on the country next week.

The United States, China and Pakistan will join talks on the Taliban takeover on Tuesday, the Kremlin’s envoy to Afghanistan said.

A day later, the Taliban and other regional players will talk to Russian officials on how to rally international assistance to stave off a humanitarian crisis.

“According to our intelligence, the number of (IS) members alone in northern Afghanistan is about 2,000 people,” Putin said during a video conference meeting with leaders of other ex-Soviet states.

Pakistan, US, China will join talks

He said they had plans to move between ex-Soviet Central Asian countries disguised as refugees.

Earlier this week, Putin warned of the threat of veteran fighters from Iraq and Syria with IS links crossing into Afghanistan, while Russia’s foreign ministry said it expected the Taliban, which recently gained control of the country, to deal with the threat.

On Friday, Putin said IS leaders in Afghanistan were seeking to project the group’s influence across former Soviet states in Central Asia — which Moscow sees as its backyard — to stir up religious and ethnic discord.

‘We need to interact’

“Terrorists are seeking to infiltrate the Comm­onwealth’s territory, including under the guise of refugees,” Putin said, referring to a group of ex-Soviet countries — some of which border Afghanistan.

The Taliban, which seized control of Kabul from a pro-Western government in mid-August, are seeking international recognition and aid.

Putin’s special envoy to Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov said on Friday that Tuesday’s talks would focus on trying “to work out a common position on the changing situation in Afghanistan”.

As for the talks the next day, Kabulov said Moscow did not expect any “breakthrough solutions” but would “openly state our complaints to the Afghan delegation”.

The Kremlin has reached out to the Taliban and hosted its representatives in Moscow several times in recent years.

While Moscow has been cautiously optimistic about the new leadership in Kabul, the Kremlin is concerned about instability spilling over into Central Asia where it has military bases.

Islamabad airport handles first Afghan cargo

ISLAMABAD: Commerce Adviser Abdul Razak Dawood said on Friday the government was fully focused on boosting trade and exports with Afghanistan.

He said peace in Afghanistan and strengthening of economic relationship between the two countries would help increase bilateral trade.

Talking to media on the occasion of first cargo handling from Islamabad airport to Afghanistan via road, the minister said it was a historic moment. The cargo reached the airport via a private air company WF Integral. Mr Razak said despite having a cargo handling facility at Islamabad Airport, the complex remained inactive for international transportation. “This facility would also help in despatching goods coming from other countries to Afghanistan,” he added.

Published in Dawn