WASHINGTON: “We want Pakistan to be seen as what it is, a country of more than 200 million people, with a large and vibrant middle class, eager to play its role in the international community,” says Pakistan’s Ambassador Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhary.

The diplomat expressed this desire while inaugurating the embassy’s first interactive website in Washington during the weekend.

But the desire to communicate with the Americans is not confined to the embassy alone. In fact, the Pakistani-American community seems even more eager than the embassy to reach out to other Americans.

For many Pakistani-Americans, this is a new urge, triggered by widespread anti-Pakistani sentiments among most Americans. Before that, most Pakistani-Americans were happy within their group and had minimum contact with the larger community.

But earlier this week, scores of Pakistanis, including representatives of the mainstream political parties, gathered at a restaurant in Northern Virginia to consider various options for reaching out to other Americans.

On Saturday, the Pakistan Embassy also gathered its senior diplomats from across the United States, along with prominent members of the Pakistani-American community, to consider how to boost their country’s image in the United States.

At the community meeting, participants launched a campaign to raise funds for countering anti-Pakistan propaganda, which has reached a new hype after President Donald Trump’s New Year Day tweet.

In that tweet, he blamed Pakistan for continuing to support Afghan insurgents despite receiving billions of dollars from Washington to fight them. Soon after the Tweet, Mr Trump also suspended more than $2 billion of security assistance to Pakistan.

The community seemed particularly concerned about a new campaign, which led to the distribution of “Free Karachi” and “Free Balochistan” pamphlets and posters in New York and Washington recently.

Community leaders decided to counter this move by supporting those Kashmiri and Sikh groups who are demanding freedom from India.

One such group has already started distributing “Free Kashmir” and “Free Khalistan” posters, car stickers and dome lights in New York. The same group has also reached out to Pakistani-Americans in Washington to seek support for launching a similar campaign in the US capital.

Most Pakistani-Americans hope that this counter-campaign will persuade India to reconsider its policy of backing anti-Pakistan groups in Western Europe and North America.

While this counter-campaign may or may not achieve its target, it will be even more difficult to boost Pakistan’s image in the United States as Americans these days are not particularly responsive to pro-Pakistan sentiments.

Published in Dawn, January 30th, 2018