When ZA Bhutto was sentenced to death in a 4-3 verdict of the Supreme Court, BBC radio’s Urdu service was the first to broadcast this news with an unusual slant that all four judges in favour of the sentence belonged to Punjab. Britain cleverly sowed the seeds of distrust between Sindhis and Punjabis through shrewd propaganda over the Supreme Court decision. Today, such propaganda is euphemistically called “Public Diplomacy”. Public diplomacy is the art of disseminating favourable information or disinformation in order to shape public opinion in other countries. While conventional diplomacy is conducted between governments, public diplomacy is about influencing the hearts and minds of the general public in foreign countries. States practice this form of diplomacy not only to project a soft image globally but also to promote strategic interests. In Pakistan, public and cultural diplomacy falls primarily within the ambit of Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. The External Publicity Wing is particularly tasked with perception management of the country in foreign press. Officers of the Information Group are posted as Press officers in several embassies. While the institutional arrangement already exists, political will in this regard remains wanting. In fact, at a time when the greatest challenge for Pakistan is ‘perception management’, some so-called intellectuals in the media are instead questioning the very rationale behind having a Ministry of Information and broadcasting. To begin with, Pakistan needs to mobilise the Pakistani community in other countries. They could prove to be a worthy asset as far as cultural diplomacy and lobbying is concerned. Whenever an unfavourable article or news item is published in foreign and international newspapers, the Indian lobbies are quick to respond with hostile criticism. The Pakistani community could do likewise. Pakistan needs to mobilise the Pakistani community in other countries. They could prove to be a worthy asset as far as cultural diplomacy and lobbying is concerned India’s cruel treatment of minorities, particularly Muslims, is well-known. Yet, all Bollywood movies project India as a secular country with equal opportunities for all. Through sustained propaganda New Delhi was also able to sell its false narrative on Mumbai attacks despite the fact that Indian claims were never substantiated by concrete evidence. In fact, Elias Davidsson exposed Indian hypocrisy and lies over Mumbai attacks in his book, The Betrayal of India. Yet, Pakistani governments have never cared to project this book locally, let alone globally. On the other hand, Spy Chronicles spread like a fire on WhatsApp. Moreover, through films like Veer Zaara, Bajrangi Bhaijan and several others, which are generally far removed from reality, India is cleverly diluting the ‘two nation theory’- the very foundation of Pakistan’s existence. India’s effective propaganda has created an entire lobby in Pakistan that tends to support Indian narratives on strategic issues. On the other hand, Pakistani governments have rather never made a targeted effort to sell their narrative on these issues to the general public in other countries. They only practice conventional diplomacy i.e. through official/ government channels. It is a pity that Pakistan has not been able to accord Jinnah the position in history that his achievements merit. He is undoubtedly the nation’s hero, but not many recognise him beyond the territory of Pakistan. On the contrary, Bollywood has carved out an image of Gandhi which he did not deserve. Pakistan needs to invest in films, books, art and similar avenues of communication in order to project its soft image abroad. Moreover, bilateral engagement with international think tanks, media outlets, and local TV channels/newspapers in other countries needs to be strengthened. This enables one to project their own viewpoint on crucial matters besides facilitating a scholarly exchange of ideas and cultural harmony. Social media has emerged as an important propaganda medium. On YouTube, one often comes across cleverly edited clips of Pakistani speakers in panel discussions that are aimed at denting Pakistan’s image in the world. The Ministry of I&B, in coordination with other stakeholders, can be tasked with carrying out counter-propaganda and diplomacy on online forums such as Facebook, twitter, YouTube, and Instagram to name a few. Lawrence of Arabia provides an epic example of what public diplomacy can achieve where conventional diplomacy fails. During World War I he had orchestrated the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire by intelligently exploiting Arab sentiments against their non-Arab rulers. While India has unleashed its Lawrence(s) against Pakistan, some Pakistani journalists, having preferred vested interest over national interest, continue to demand the abolition of Ministry of Information and Broadcasting- the principal agency responsible for countering anti-state propaganda through public and cultural diplomacy. The writer is an independent researcher in public policy and international relations. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Published in Daily Times, August 3rd 2018.