Special Assistant to Prime Minister on National Security Dr Moeed Yusuf on Saturday said it was important to change how Pakistan's narrative was perceived in the world and to propagate the message that the country stood for economic security and regional peace.
"It is important to change Pakistan's narrative in the world. Pakistan's narrative is of economic security and the world has not seen that. This is what I want to work on," he said during a press conference in Lahore.
He said India had tried to propagate the narrative of "shining India" but the world could now see "how shining it was".
"But Pakistan's narrative is one of peace and taking the region forward," the PM's aide said.
"Our focus is on where we are and my office's goal is that Pakistan's new narrative is recognised in the world," he added.
"We ourselves say we are a very small market. How can the world's fifth or sixth biggest country (population-wise) say that?"
Yusuf also termed the media "Pakistan's diplomats" and called on them to play their role in changing the country's narrative, pointing out that foreign publications "picked up news" on the country from Pakistani media outlets.
"I request you, you can talk about the state and criticise it, but Pakistan's narrative should be apparent [in your coverage]."
The Wire interview
Yusuf was speaking just days after his interview with Indian media outlet The Wire — the first time a Pakistani government official gave an interview to Indian media since India repealed occupied Kashmir's special status last year. Indian journalist Karan Thapar interviewed the premier's special assistant virtually.
In his wide-ranging interview, Yusuf had talked about Indian actions in occupied Kashmir, Gilgit Baltistan's status, relations between India and Pakistan, the Uighur community in China, consular access for Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav and New Delhi's allegations that Pakistan sponsors terrorism in India.
He disclosed that India has sent messages to Pakistan over the past year expressing a desire for conversation. However, Pakistan would like to assess India’s intent, lest it uses a future dialogue to tell the world that all is well between the two and, implicitly, with Kashmir.
The SAPM said that the Indian side had pushed a "one-sided narrative for at least two decades" since 9/11 attacks. He added that Malik Fareedoun, a mastermind of the Army Public School massacre in Peshawar, was in touch with handlers at the Indian consulate in Afghanistan.
Yusuf said that Islamabad has "evidence to a T" that India was sponsoring terrorism in Pakistan, adding that the Indian government was "using Afghanistan's" territory in its schemes.
Yusuf's interview was lauded by Pakistanis on social media with the SAPM saying he was "truly humbled by the outpouring of all the positive feedback from across the country".
However, during today's presser, Yusuf said he was "saddened" by one aspect of the interview's feedback.
"Ninety per cent of the feedback said that this was the first time a a Pakistani fearlessly replied to India. Why would we be fearful? Our basic message is one of peace."
He said India was "propagating the narrative that some sort of deal had been done on Kashmir" and Pakistan would not raise the issue.
Responding to this insinuation, Yusuf said in his interview with Thapar he used the words "over my dead body".
In the interview, the PM's aide said, he had also explained that while Pakistan had never recognised the now scraped Article 370 of the Indian constitution, Islamabad was "raising the issue [of its repeal] because you (India) have formally gone outside the UN charter and resolutions by making a permanent change to a territory I rightfully claim as mine".
Talking about the conditions of Kashmiris, he said India was treating them "worse than animals" and it would have to take back its unilateral measures in the occupied territory. "I said this in the show. You will have to take back [your measures] because of what is happening there".
SAPM Yusuf said that India says Pakistan wants to talk about Kashmir but it wants to address terrorism [first].
"I said [in the interview] we want to talk about this and then I told them about Army Public School and the attacks in Gwadar and PSX (Pakistan Stock Exchange) with proof. We don't have anything to hide.
"They said we haven't mentioned talks but they didn't respond to our allegations of terrorism [by India]. We are ready to talk and have clarified the conditions. We are standing for peace," he said.