ISLAMABAD: Pakistan kicked off a new cultural diplomacy initiative in Islamabad on Thursday with a night of devotional Sufi qawwali in collaboration with popular music platform Coke Studio, with the foreign minister saying he aimed to project the ‘true face’ of Pakistan by showcasing its rich music traditions home and abroad.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi hosted the musical night on the lawns of the foreign office to share his vision of Pakistan’s “cultural diplomacy footprint,” with an event planned at the Dubai Expo 2020 in October and an Overseas Festival to be held in Lahore in December.
“In October in collaboration, with Expo 2020, I will be holding another function in Dubai where we will showcase Pakistan’s economic potential, economic opportunities,” Qureshi told Arab News. “Then hopefully in December, we will invite high achievers from the diaspora, our overseas Pakistanis from Europe, America, Canada and other places, to come be part of our Overseas Festival in which we will connect the diaspora and see how they can contribute towards Pakistan’s economic growth and how they can be the true ambassadors of Pakistan.”
Thursday’s event was a first of its kind collaboration between the foreign office and Coke Studio, a Pakistani TV show that features live studio-recorded performances by celebrated and emerging artists. It is widely called one of Pakistan’s “greatest cultural exports.”
“Through these events and our initiatives, we are projecting Pakistan’s true face through cultural diplomacy, connecting people through digital diplomacy, and promoting Pakistan’s economy through economic diplomacy,” Qureshi said.
In his keynote address, the foreign minister spoke about the importance of cultural diplomacy and the powerful impact it has on shaping global narratives and perceptions.
Coke Studio’s latest coffee table book, “Beyond the Wave,” an exploration of Pakistan’s musical history, was also launched at the event.
The musical performers of the evening were famed qawwal kings Abu Muhammed and Fareed Ayaz, both constants on Coke Studio.
The choice of qawalli as the opening music for the foreign ministry’s initiative was a purposeful one, Qureshi said, because “the tradition of Sufism was one of tolerance, and that is the tradition of Pakistan.”
As the performance wrapped up, Arab News asked Qureshi to elaborate on the decision to introduce his new cultural initiative with Sufi music.
“When Sufism began spreading in the [Indian] sub-continent they preached tolerance, they cared about humanity and their message was a message of love, unity, interfaith harmony and a better understanding,” the foreign minister said. “And that’s what the tradition of the sub-continent and South Asia has been and that is what we strive to continue.”