Seeing the thin attendance in the United Nations General Assembly when our prime minister spoke, made me troll the internet archives for photographs of President Asif Zardari addressing the GA. The attendance was considerably more than that witnessed when Mr Nawaz Sharif addressed the world body a few weeks ago.
Indeed, we should not lose sight of the fact that Pakistan’s position in the world should not have changed much in the five or six years that we speak about. Indeed, the coming withdrawal of all Nato/Isaf forces from Afghanistan and the catastrophe that will inevitably engulf the region in its aftermath should make our country even more important to the world at this time. Why then, were so many delegations missing altogether when Mr Sharif spoke?
Is it the case that our diplomats at the UN were under instruction not to try too hard to get other delegations to attend our PM’s speech to further embarrass him (sonay peh sohaga) considering the dharnas going on in the capital of Pakistan? If that is not the case, it is obvious that our Mission to the UN is not extending itself more, and trying harder to influence colleagues from other countries in order to sensitise them to Pakistan’s concerns and coming trials.
When Hussain Haroon was appointed ambassador to the UN by the PPP government, there were all kinds of negative stories spread about him by the ‘ghairat brigades’, which, coincidentally, find themselves on the wrong side of the fence today! Damaging stories about why a political appointee should not be given a ‘technical’ post such as ambassador to the UN, etcetera; about how he was not a ‘core-professional’ diplomat, etcetera.
However, we all know the fact that he proved to be a most effective ambassador by virtue of being socially gifted and quickly became possibly the most popular ambassador among his colleagues from other countries. If I recall, Pakistan was highly successful in the UN during his tenure, our country winning election to many UN bodies, even getting elected to the Security Council.
I have just now been to visit a group of friends, one Thai; one Malaysian; and one Pakistani in Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Bangkok. Whilst I had never been to KL, I had visited Penang and Bangkok before. By golly, are those cities booming.
The way Penang’s and Bangkok’s skylines are changing is absolutely incredible. The glittering stores and the restaurants and the public transport, specially Bangkok’s BTS, or Sky Train (because it is elevated), are so much improved that it makes you wonder. For starters, no one in these countries tries to pull the political rug from beneath his or her opponent’s feet where development projects are concerned, despite the fact that political rivalries are extreme.
As for Kuala Lumpur, it is a bustling metropolis, which is increasing in size and adding feverishly to its skyline. The very centre of downtown, the area called Bukit Bintang is something to behold, despite the fact that certain parts of it are now closed off because of the under-construction underground Mass Rapid Transit Project. It is to be noted that the city already has a monorail system connecting some 60 destinations with two cars running on an elevated track in one direction and two in the other.
Despite the inconvenience, people go about cheerfully in anticipation of the opening of the underground in 2016, quite unlike us Pakistanis constantly belly-aching over the inconvenience caused by the under-construction Metro Bus project, crudely called Jangla Bus because it runs on a dedicated road.
Anyway, back to Malaysia: the thing that strikes one most about that quite stunning country is the harmony in which its various ethnicities and religions live: Malay; Chinese; Indian: Muslim; Buddhist; Hindu; Christian; Sikh; animist, you name it.
I write this from one of my very favourite cities, London, where I have come after three very long years. And by God, is it expensive! So, am escaping to my pal Wolfgang in Regensburg, a two-hour ride from Munich. How I love Bavaria, and what a very beautiful old town is Regensburg, sitting as it does on the confluence of the Danube and Regen Rivers.
But wherever one travels, thoughts of home trail you everywhere. As usual, the news is not good. I am told that dumper trucks that carry sand and cement and aggregate into Islamabad have not worked for two months now, ever since the dharnas started. I wonder how the operators’ families get on without the daily 500 or 700 rupees they bring home every night?
The second is the firing along the LoC between India and Pakistan in which several people have been killed, mainly innocent civilians. I have asked the question before: why does India refuse to let the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) anywhere near its border? What does it have to hide?
It is plainly disingenuous to hide behind the Simla Agreement under the pretext that it states the two countries will ONLY deal with each other bilaterally. The Simla agreement states: Quote: (i) That the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations shall govern the relations between the two countries; and (ii) That the two countries are resolved to settle their differences by peaceful means through bilateral negotiations or by any other peaceful means mutually agreed upon between them. Unquote.
Nowhere does it preclude seeking third-party arbitration, in this case a UN mandated body, the UNMOGIP. Incidentally, just as soon as word got out that Pakistan and India would soon resume talks, I told my friends the LoC would heat up. Well, there it is!
Published in The Express Tribune, October 10th, 2014.