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Governmental communication and Kashmir

"Bilawal Zardari-Bhutto's handling of the tour, and ensuing media coverage shows that the foreign minister did not let the media set the agenda of his tour. Instead, he proved to be the agenda setter"

The three-day trip to New York was Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s first diplomatic assignment. Since diplomacy is all about the use of language, calculated phrases, words, and body language, I was closely following his visit. Not to forget, communication is my interest, and my 24 hours-a-day business. I was predicting tough questions from journalists – both Pakistani and international – given Pakistan’s position on Ukraine, Afghanistan, and Pakistan-US relations. What made his tour a matter of attention was that the present government has totally different positions on these fronts. So, all eyes were on Bilawal how he would handle questions. If he rebutted Imran Khan government’s policies that would be embarrassing for the government of Pakistan; he endorsed them, a heavy political backlash would await him back at home.

At a media talk, Bilawal left the hostile and friendly media speechless when he defended Imran Khan’s visit to Moscow on February 24. He fought his political adversary’s move diplomatically and logically linking Imran’s visit to bad timing, and unexpected Russian invasion of Ukraine. He said the visit was the outcome of well-thought-out consultations. His mature response was noticed by the media outlets which gave him a prominent display, saying that with his pro-Imran Khan remarks, Bilawal not only defended Pakistan’s diplomatic moves but also saved Pakistan’s ties with Russia and won many hearts back in Pakistan.

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The foreign minister had a tight schedule during his first foray: he met US State Secretary Blinken, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, UN General Assembly President Abdulla Shahid and several foreign ministers.

His pro-Imran remarks, however, downplayed some of Bilawal’s landmark meetings. Like, during his meeting with key US officials, US Assistant Secretary of State Donald Lu was also present, and the meeting went smoothly. Donald Lu has become a household name in Pakistan, thanks to Imran Khan’s American conspiracy claims behind his government’s ouster.

Bilawal Zardari-Bhutto’s handling of the tour, and ensuing media coverage shows that the foreign minister did not let the media set the agenda of his tour. Instead, he proved to be the agenda setter.

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It is sad to see the conviction of Kashmiri freedom fighter Yasin Malik in an Indian court. The veteran Kashmir leader, also the head of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front, has long been the torchbearer of the non-violent freedom struggle of Kashmiris, facing the brutal, tyrannical rule of the Modi government. An Indian court convicted him of terror funding. Yasin Malik had been under arrest for years without any trial. The sham trial was also conducted in highly suspicious, manipulated circumstances, which only exhibits the Modi government’s panic and resolve to suppress Kashmiri voices. The world has yet to wake up to the systematic cleansing of the Kashmiris in Indian-held Kashmir.

Will the use of brutal force by the Modi government silence Kashmiris?

No. Instead, the conviction of Yasin Malik will renew Kashmiris’ resolve and determination to keep their struggle for freedom from Indian rule alive and kicking.

We have seen Kashmiris’ resentment to such actions in the past. Despite the fact, the Indian authorities kept freedom leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani in detention for years till his death last year, while another Hurriyat Conference leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has been in arbitrary detention for the last three years, India has failed to control the streets of the occupied territories. The deployment of more than 600,000 troops in the scenic valley shows that India is struggling hard to enforce its writ on the disputed region. Sadly, the world does not stand by the Kashmiris. The lone voice is of Pakistan. But I was left in utter pain when no political leader raised voice against the conviction of Yasin Malik on Thursday, the day when Yasin Malik was convicted, and Friday, when the news was carried in media in Pakistan. Though Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and his foreign office issued statements in favour of Yasin Malik, politicians remained unaware of the development. Only on Saturday, Information Minister Marriyam Aurangzeb took up the issue in a media talk. She would have raised the issue on Friday. She must know she is the information minister of Pakistan first, and of her PML-N government later.

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