WASHINGTON, March 25 (APP): Increased exchange programs and public communication opportunties will help Pakistanis and Americans have a ‘candid and honest’ discourse they need to move past misperceptions on both sides and build a trustful relationship, say senior officials linked to public outreach.“One of the things that we have been working on very consciously, is to be sure that we have a broad array of American voices speaking to the people of Pakistan and informing them what we are doing,” Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Judith McHale, said in a discussion on the importance of radio in Pakistan.
“I believe passionately, the more we communicate very directly with the people of Pakistan, the stronger our relationships will be,” she stated, citing top American officials’ appearances on the Pakistani TV and Radio programs and their public interactions.
Murtaza Solangi, Director General of Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation, pointed out the “need to create more opportunities,where governments and people, both at individual and institutional level, can engage themselves in a very transparent dialogue.”
He said there are “misconceptions” on both sides, which need to be removed.“You need to hear a lot of Pakistani voices and engage in a very honest, candid, frank manner. That helps,” he said referring to late Richard Holbrooke’s participation in Radio Pakistan’s programs.
The discussion - moderated by New America Foundation President, Steve Clemons and attended by Alex Evans, a British diplomat and Senior Advisor to the Office of the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan - touched on the power of connection technologies, the importance of radio to education, grassroots empowerment, and countering extremist voices.
In the debate, McHale and Solangi both recognized difficulties and challenges in the current environment.
“Yes, there are a lot of problems. But, I think, the way to address those problems is a very honest and frank dialogue,” remarked Solangi,who spoke about the massive growth and power of the Pakistani media,the Pakistanis’ use of technologies like cell phones and the vital role of radio in shaping public opinion in rural areas.
“We’ve got to find a way of closing the trust deficit. I agree, I think the more open and honest conversations and discussions we can have, the better off we are going to be. The more information we share about each other, the better off we are going to be,” argued McHale.
She said exchange programs help foster better people-to-people understanding.