Pakistan and Afghanistan are often bracketed as brotherly nations. The two states have deep-rooted historical links, traditional affinity, striking social fabric similarity, shared religious identity, and ethnocultural bond with each other. Both the countries have far more than borders in common.
Moreover, both countries have a great opportunity to build media cooperation. This will jointly help both countries to project a positive image & build capacity in areas of entertainment & journalism.
On the first day, the PAYF team gave a warm welcome to the Afghan delegation. The delegation arrived at the Islamabad International Airport from Kabul. The honorable guests from Afghanistan checked in at Legend Hotels Islamabad. PAYF team treated the guests with Hi-tea. The guests settled down at the hotel; After they had had time to make themselves at home, the dinner was served. This offered an opportunity for them to acquaint themselves with the team & discuss the itinerary for their trip.
High Profile Meetings
The delegation visit was a 4-day long visit, where PAYF was able to showcase the cooperation that Afghanistan can get from Pakistan. The delegation also had a meeting with the Honorable Prime Minister, Imran Khan. The meeting allowed the members of the delegation, to question the Prime Minister. The questions they asked included Pakistan’s policy with Afghanistan & the dealings with the government in Kabul.
The Chief of Army Staff, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, also held a meeting with the delegation. During the meeting he highlighted the values & Culture that Pakistan & Afghanistan share.
Meetings & Visits
A delegation from Afghanistan, warranted a visit to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The delegates met Pakistan’s special Representative for Afghanistan – Ambassador Mohammed Sadiq. He held a candid discussion with the delegation over tea. During the meeting several aspects of Pak-Afghan relations were discussed.
Afterwards, the guests visited IRS (Institute of Regional Studies); they discussed the future of cooperation in academia & research. Moreover, the IRS visit allowed the delegates to explore the workings of a Policy Think Tank. The delegation also visited the PID (Press Information Department); where they had a round table discussion with Ms. Ambreen Jan, Director General – External Publicity Wing.
Media Conclave Opening Ceremony
On the Third day the Media Conclave began, with panel discussions between members of the delegation & members of Pakistan’s journalist fraternity. The inaugural session started with a recitation of the Holy Quran. After that, the Honorable Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Mr. Fawad Chaudhry discussed his interest in journalism and politics. He explained that even religion teaches us to take care of our neighbours, and that is what Pakistan has always done. The result of the instability in Afghanistan has meant an influx of refugees in Pakistan. There is another turning point now we must build true people-to-people relationships and inculcate trust between our nation’s people via the media. He further added that historic bonds with Afghanistan will continue to exist no matter what.
Moreover, Pakistan is aware of the ground realities in Kabul, how there are warring groups fighting for influence. However, this is not a sustainable and peaceful way forward, Afghanistan is a huge country, small groups can’t rule over it. All these groups must come together and form an inclusive and democratic government.
Working together will lead to peace in the region at large.
The next speaker was President IRS, Ambassador (R) Nadeem Riyaz. He said that Pakistan has contributed $1 billion for infrastructure, health and capacity building of Afghan professionals. Furthermore, Pakistan has 4 million Afghans refugees and up to 4 generations have grown up in Pakistan. Mr. Riyaz acknowledged that the bond between the two countries is strong. However, deeper cultural ties and enhanced people to people contact needs to develop. Trust will overcome the designed agenda of the detractors. Prosperity matters for our future generations, in strengthening existing relations. Hence, there must be responsible reporting in both Afghanistan and Pakistan Media.
Improving Regional Optics
Furthermore, the first session was moderated by Nadia Naqi who led the session with a welcome note. Mr. Masood Baig initiated the discussion; he mentioned that media must be free and independent before positively impacting conflicts. The willingness of a journalist to be objective and to help must be there for them to play a part in a peace process.
Moving forward, the Afghan delegate, Rabia Sadat said that Afghanistan and Pakistan have similarities in religion and customs etc. The issues between Afghanistan and Pakistan are a sensitive problem. The government of both countries should expertly solve the issues and the media should not have to shape political realities and hence we must try to avoid propaganda against each other. Another Afghan delegate Shegoofa Sediqi, added that Afghan media was always on an unbiased side. She said the aim was never to support one group over another; rather it was to keep things objective and fair, especially while covering the peace process and other latest happenings in Afghanistan.
Views of Pakistani Journalists
Similarly, Hassan Khan gave his insights on media of both countries. According to him the media is truly unaware of what the people want. He pointed out that there’re a lot of negativities being screened on both ends. Pakistan’s Media has no direct contact with news from Afghanistan. Therefore, whatever we receive is through Social Media and international media. Which obviously comes with its own perception.
Furthermore, Iftikhar Firdous a Pakistani Journalist gave his views on undoing of perceptions currently held. The media can play a significant role in setting the record straight. These perceptions are a result of history, and has created animosity. The lack of direct sources, affects the authenticity of information.
Asad Kosha argued that media is biased in both countries, to change that people must be brought together. We must bring journalists and others together and hold dialogue. He agreed that mistakes have been made but also said now is the time for peaceful lives. Afghanistan is rich but we need to remove the trust deficit and improve Pak-Afghan diplomatic relations.
we must build true people-to-people relationships and inculcate trust between our nation’s people via the media
An Afghan industrialist Irfan Sinan highlighted how media impacts businesses. Nothing positive is shown in the media in Afghanistan or Pakistan; this creates an atmosphere of insecurity, distrust and hatred among the people. In Afghanistan, we find it hard to trust the Pakistani media when it covers stories about Afghanistan because they hardly mention their sources. We cannot trust gossip, we need hardcore facts with transparent sources, not hearsay.
Media Conclave Day 2
The closing session was moderated by Ms. Sumaira Khan, who wanted to assess the grounds for cooperation between the two countries. Javed Sheikh, renowned actor, acknowledged that a lot can be done in terms of cultural exchange, drama, film and music (entertainment) industry. Pak-Afghan are brotherly states. Moreover, he said that the current situation, cooperation in these streams is necessary.
Moreover, Zehra Siddiqi, replied that a plausible solution to take things forward and bring our media industries together could be; to facilitate the travel of media personalities from both nations. Hence, we should invite media personalities, celebrities and other people connected to this industry to come and visit Afghanistan. They will see the potential that the place holds and what all we can do with it.
Haris Jamalzada added that the governments have issues bringing it all to the table, which is understandable but then the media should step up and fill the gap. For this, we have to change the perceptions and behavior of people on both sides. Fariddudin Azim said that firstly, Afghan identity is majorly through media and especially Twitter, this must change. We must develop an identity through cinema and entertainment. Similarly, it’s not just that the media is portraying a negative image of Pakistan, we have notions of Pakistani virtues of being hospitable and selfish. Nearly1000-1500 people from Afghanistan come to Pakistan for health treatments. They return and present a very positive view of Pakistani hospitality and medical treatment.
Views of Pakistani Actors
Usman Peerzada shared that Afghanistan isn’t just a neighbour – we share so much, from food, to language, to clothing, to history, to poets. The history of the land is far older than these 150 years old borders. Haroon Rashid stated that there are so many opportunities in Pakistan that we can provide to Afghanistan. He proposed training journalists. Likewise, we have already trained professionals belonging to other different and diverse fields; be it medicine, defence, engineering or sport. Pakistan hosts many Afghan students & they treat Pakistan as their second home.
Borders to Bridges
Additionally, State Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Mr. Farrukh Habib, claimed the Media’s importance as a pillar of the state. It’s purpose is not only to highlight the countries achievements internally. It also highlights their achievements on an international level; this is the level that Pak-Afghan relations need to get to and the media plays a big role in this.
Chairperson of Parliamentary Special Committee on Kashmir, Mr. Sheharyar Afridi delivered the closing address. He stated that as a neighboring state and brothers, Pakistan’s ready to facilitate Afghanistan in every manner. Afghan stakeholders from all backgrounds, be it from any ethnicity, hold great value.
Ministerial Farewell Dinner
The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, organized a farewell dinner to mark a remarkable end to the Delegation Visit. The dinner boasted the attendance of many high-profile guests such as ministers & foreign dignitaries. The guests were addressed by the honorable Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly of Pakistan, Qasim Khan Suri.
For more information & details of the event you can refer to our report.