Missing the bus

Published: October 10, 2014
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The writer is a columnist, a former major of the Pakistan Army and served as press secretary to Benazir Bhutto 
kamran.shafi@tribune.com.pk

The writer is a columnist, a former major of the Pakistan Army and served as press secretary to Benazir Bhutto kamran.shafi@tribune.com.pk

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.

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Reader Comments (36)

  • YetAnotherReader
    Oct 10, 2014 - 12:24AM

    Dear writer, Srinagar is the current head quarters of UNMOGIP. There is a UN website live and available 1. Kindly verify data before writing something.

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  • Parvez
    Oct 10, 2014 - 12:34AM

    I’ll be honest I did wonder over the past few weeks as to where you had disappeared to……and now we know.

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  • 3rdRockFromTheSun
    Oct 10, 2014 - 1:18AM

    “Nowhere does it preclude seeking third-party arbitration, in this case a UN mandated body, the UNMOGIP.”

    @author : from your own quote :

    (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.

    Perhaps the bolded words above are a clue as to why India insists on no third party?

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  • Oct 10, 2014 - 1:19AM

    So if there was dust blowing in the halls of UN when Nawaz was
    addressing the General Assembly do not be surprised. You missed
    the pigeons and crows that started to roost. Abandoned building?!?
    The Paks are not any nation in South Asia. It is a nation under siege.
    from the Hindus, from the Terrorists, from the Afghans from the Uzbegs,
    from the Tajiks, from Uighurs, from the Baloch liberation front, from Sindhi
    liberation front. Plus years of bad management and rulers and looting galore!
    Leading this macabre Circus Parade is Nawaz. A two time loser. Who is not
    a leader or a seasoned manager or a politician or anything. The man is simply
    riding on a homegrown beast of communal ethnic vote. For the first time Paks
    discovered they have a backbone. And are learning to stand up. Not perpetually
    crawl under the foot of the likes of Nawaz et al. The Genie is out of the bottle..
    Even the Dehati Aurats are singing a different tune in ameerul momineen’s ear.
    They are singing GO Nawaz Go.

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  • C Raja
    Oct 10, 2014 - 1:21AM

    Is the UNGO Observer some kind of umpire in a cricket match ? Are we playing gilli-danda or what ? We dont respect some suits in New York who will decide the fate of 1.25 billion Hindustanis. The world is not a fair place.

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  • daddy
    Oct 10, 2014 - 1:51AM

    pakistan will only grow more poorer if it keeps up ante against india…..with gdp growth less than 4 and high population growth only god can save pak

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  • daddy
    Oct 10, 2014 - 1:53AM

    pakistan seriously lags in infra development … metro bus….i haven’t heard that thing in the entire life…

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  • Deepwater
    Oct 10, 2014 - 5:16AM

    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.

    I beg to differ. The withdrawal of NATO forces will once again make the region unimportant. Nobody cares for that part of the world – it is economically and culturally backward and contributes nothing to mankind. Its natural resources are not worth the country risk. Time and again, it rises in importance for all the wrong reasons. Then the world takes a brief interest but packs up and leaves when their job is done. That is what is happening now. Please don’t over estimate your “strategic location”.

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  • Oct 10, 2014 - 5:52AM

    “Nowhere does it preclude seeking third-party arbitration, in this case a UN mandated body, the UNMOGIP. “

    You actually answered your own question.

    “by peaceful means through bilateral negotiations or by any other peaceful means mutually agreed upon between them.”

    The key word here is: “mutually agreed upon between them”. Can you tell me when India agreed?

    So, that leaves bilateral discussions. Which has been India’s position all along.

    Simla agreement was a stroke of genius, but sad that Kashmir wasn’t settled forever. An opportunity missed.

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  • Asim
    Oct 10, 2014 - 6:10AM

    @YetAnotherReader:
    Kindly consult a map. The city is al teast 40-50 km away from the de-facto border (LOC), as the crow flies. Being in Srinagar does not mean India allows them near the LOC.

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  • Taimoor
    Oct 10, 2014 - 7:17AM

    Your articles are like a weekly news round up, with your “analysis.” is this the best pakistan has.

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  • Naeem Khan
    Oct 10, 2014 - 8:03AM

    (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.” Since one party India resorted to shelling and firing on civilians and caused some deaths, therefore the Simla Agreement should be null and void. Why stick to something when one or both parties are violating it’s spirit and intentions. I say the heck with this kind of diplomacy. If India refuses to allow UNMOGIP on their side of the disputed border then Pakistan should allow them unilaterally, India never was Pakistan’s friend and never will be, it is time for Pakistanis to show some unity and strength and this is the only language Indians ever understood. They will never entangle China because they understand the outcome.

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  • Oct 10, 2014 - 9:01AM

    @daddy:
    It takes a hindu troll like you, to know all this, does it not?

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  • harkol
    Oct 10, 2014 - 9:03AM

    UNMOGIP and UN resolutions on Kashmir are so dated that the events have taken over those resolutions, and thus are irrelevant today. Kashmir is not what it was in 1947. Portions of it is now occupied by China. Demographics and life style of either side of Kashmir isn’t what it was in 1947. All solutions can’t be solved by UN.

    Kashmir isn’t a problem that can be solved. Because, the problem stems from the two nation theory – that religion is the foundation of a nation. India can not accept it, for if it has to accept then majority will follow Pakistan’s example and push out the minorities, and convert India to a Hindu nation. Something India can not afford.

    So, Indian administered Kashmir will only find a solution within the boundaries of India. And only solution is to accept the LoC as border. Pakistan can try as hard as it wants – but it’ll be futile. It’ll only spoil the life of another generation of Pakistanis.

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  • Faheem
    Oct 10, 2014 - 9:34AM

    @ 3rdRockFromTheSun
    Then why does it involve its daddy US in talks about terrorism and LET? Where a situation favors India, it goes to third party and where it does not, it goes back to bilateral things. Take a stand and stick to it rather than dwindling like a pendulum on serious issues.Recommend

  • Gp65
    Oct 10, 2014 - 10:18AM

    @Author: ‘ 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!’

    Did you also tell your friends WHY you rightly expected that LoC would heat up? Which country’s army does not report to the elected political leaders, pray tell us. Who then can dare to undermine talks that civilians want? Not the Indian COAS, that is for sure.

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  • Strategic Asset
    Oct 10, 2014 - 10:30AM

    Since you may have to kill time waiting at airports and the like, I would suggest you read recent books authored by Hussain Haqqani, Carlotta Gall and Christine Fair to understand that Pakistan has always approached external parties in order to punch above its own weight to try and get something that should never be hers.

    Take a look at the IWT on the basis of which Pakistan routinely drags India to various third parties despite not getting favorable judgement just to irritate India and hinder India’s development.

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  • Vikram
    Oct 10, 2014 - 11:11AM

    The last couple of paragraphs sum up pretty much the state of mind (denial mode or just plain stupid) of most Pakistani authors (and to think that generally speaking, Shafi sahab would count among the more intelligent ones!) — yes Shafi Sahab, sure the Simla Accord “does not preclude third party arbitration” as you say… BUT nor does it make it mandatory either … it has to be mutually accepted!! If India does not accept anything it will not happen (of course the same applies for Pakistan too). At the end of the day, please remember that the Accord was between a victor and the vanquished (after 1971 war) … perhaps it’s time now that Pakistan abrogated that accord itself on those very grounds – at least it will prevent its diplomats and others of making fools of themselves!

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  • Salman
    Oct 10, 2014 - 11:26AM

    @harkol I would like to point out that India took over control of Junagadh Manavadar and other areas which had decided to join Pakistan in 1947 illegally under the pretense that these were Hindu majority principalities ruled by Muslim rulers.

    India has also acted using the communal logic in the past.

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  • Freeman
    Oct 10, 2014 - 11:43AM

    @Khushab wala.: Please explain what a “troll” is? Is it always someone whom you perceive to be a Hindu or an Indian ? How are you so sure? I think you may be also a “troll” or a troglodyte. How are we to know? Would any non-Pakistani/non-Muslim contributor to an Express Tribune article be a “troll,” too? (Notice Express Tribune is a New York Times partner, so that rag must be a troll, or, worse, a Trojan horse.) In any case, please say your piece and don’t cast aspersions on others as that adds no value.

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  • khem
    Oct 10, 2014 - 12:15PM

    @Naeem Khan:
    To quote Deng Xiaoping:”This generation does not have the wisdom to resolve this issue”
    I think you will have to wait for a little economic balancing between China and India before this
    goes into the next round……..

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  • Salman
    Oct 10, 2014 - 12:35PM

    At the end of the day, India knows it is hanging on to its portion of Kashmir by force and every Indian knows that the Kashmiris would love to leave India if they were given a chance.

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  • Rakib
    Oct 10, 2014 - 12:40PM

    @author: Regarding LoC heating up:- Common sense would say Pakistan wouldn’t mind LoC hotting up spectacularly if it can engage international attention. Lest it may attract attention India would want LoC to remain low-profile, preferably peaceful. Inferences unfavourable to Pakistan are inescapable.

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  • chandran
    Oct 10, 2014 - 12:42PM

    Kamran Shaf i love you and your writings and your face itself showing that you are a
    soft nature person.

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  • A
    Oct 10, 2014 - 12:43PM

    @writer

    while not siding with the current govt, but dont you think the last five years of the previous govt PPP along with the enormous amounts of corruption, institutional and economical dents given to the economy at their time, coupled with a complete absence of accountability during their time, they just handed over a crumpling/already crumpling carcass ( pakistan ) onto the shoulders of the new govt to deal with. the previous govt was no saint either, they took their due ( and more ) share from the people and the country during their tenure.. i find your analysis slightly skewed.

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  • Oct 10, 2014 - 1:55PM

    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.

    1) It talks about UN Charter not UN resolution.as was continuously been harped by pakistan, Charter are some principles according to which all nations on earth should voluntarily agree to live by that principle as every nation are part of earth and part of UN.UN resolution is nowhere mentioned in Shimla agreements.Pakistanis need to get aware of the difference between UN Charter and UN resolution

    2) Bilateral and Mutually word is involves,no multilateral or 3rd party word mentioned

    3) At last there is sovereign signature of pakistan PM at that time thus accepting Shimla agreements,thus from now on UN Resolution effectively stands irrelevant (1971).

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  • Oct 10, 2014 - 1:55PM

    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.

    1) It talks about UN Charter not UN resolution.as was continuously been harped by pakistan, Charter are some principles according to which all nations on earth should voluntarily agree to live by that principle as every nation are part of earth and part of UN.UN resolution is nowhere mentioned in Shimla agreements.Pakistanis need to get aware of the difference between UN Charter and UN resolution

    2) Bilateral and Mutually word is involves,no multilateral or 3rd party word mentioned

    3) At last there is sovereign signature of pakistan PM at that time thus accepting Shimla agreements,thus from now on UN Resolution effectively stands irrelevant (1971)Recommend

  • Prakash
    Oct 10, 2014 - 2:13PM

    @Salman:

    India took over control of Junagadh Manavadar and other areas……
    And why, pray, nobody in Pakistan thought it fit to take the matter to UN? Why was there a silent acceptance about accession of these areas to India?
    Think about it, study some history, or just google and you will find the answer.

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  • Oct 10, 2014 - 2:37PM

    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.

    1) It talks about UN Charter not UN resolution.as was continuously been harped by pakistan, Charter are some principles according to which all nations on earth should voluntarily agree to live by that principle as every nation are part of earth and part of UN.UN resolution is nowhere mentioned in Shimla agreements.Pakistanis need to get aware of the difference between UN Charter and UN resolution

    2) Bilateral and Mutually word is involves,no multilateral or 3rd party word mentioned

    3) At last there is sovereign signature of pakistan PM at that time thus accepting Shimla agreements,thus from now on UN Resolution effectively stands irrelevant (1971).Recommend

  • turlehead
    Oct 10, 2014 - 2:46PM

    This was one of the most absurd and abstract articles Ive read in a long time, starts off well and then goes into some mindless rambling about the Skyline of Bangkok and KL, i seriously don’t know what the connection between NS’s representation at the UN and the skyline of BKK have in common. From London being expensive to his love of Bavaria ! The entire article is a mash-up of unnecessary observations to prove a vague point.

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  • Oats
    Oct 10, 2014 - 6:34PM

    @turlehead: I think the author is trying to say that there is no reason why Pakistan can’t be as developed as any other nation but certain quarters there do not wish to see economic development. That’s why Imran Khan started these Dharnas with the invisible hands behind him who are trying to disturb Pakistan. It seems our people like Imran Khan are easily manipulated but outsiders who do not want democracy and stability in Pakistan. Any stable system will see growth in Pakistan and we even saw a peaceful transition of power which is unheard of in Muslim countries but this was too hard to bear for some anti state quarters. They thrive on instability.

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  • globalobserver
    Oct 11, 2014 - 1:01AM

    “why does India refuse to let the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) anywhere near its border?”

    It is because, it is a bilateral issue and any role of UN (and the resolutions) is obsolete. As simple as that.

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  • Rakib
    Oct 11, 2014 - 9:54AM

    @globalobserver: Then you are inviting the question,”If it’s a bilateral issue why did India cancel Secretary level talks?” For that the answer would be Pak Ambassador met Separatists. In response Pak will insist on meeting them since they are from area that is disputed. It becomes an impasse. Then Pak calls it a fit issue for Third Party Mediation. That’s how it goes; circular. Arguments are won/lost but lives are lost for sure.

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  • LS
    Oct 12, 2014 - 3:53AM

    @Khushab wala.: How do you know he is Hindu? You sir have amazing abilities… albeit of the undesired kind.

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  • LS
    Oct 12, 2014 - 4:06AM

    @Faheem: I don’t know if US India’s dad or not but Pakistan definitely a strange bedfellow of US because it you have been in their Cohort since 1954, the country that sent 7th fleet to save you but could not, sends you sophisticated arms but could not save you from defeat, gives you aid but could not save you from getting bankrupt. Helped you cultivate free insurgents and pounds you with drones. India wasn’t and isn’t in their good books. If we were in their good books there would not be sanctions against us in 70’s and 90’s, we would not have been hounded by their 7th fleet.

    So good luck and enjoy you bedfellow

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  • Sam
    Oct 12, 2014 - 2:03PM

    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?…. Great Question, Have your own pakistani media been allowed near the LOC to cover the events?? How many from Express Tribune have gone there?

    The simple fact of the matter India and Pakistan are no more estranged siblings. We have come a long way from that. UNMOGIP was between those siblings who were like US and Britain. Now the India Pakistan equation is like US and Mexico.

    Further in India, the soft corner for Pakistan has constantly evaporated in the last 60+ years. For the 40& 50s generation of Indians, Pakistan was estranged sibling. For the 60s &70s generation it was just an adversary, albeit a worthy one which fought three wars honorably. To the 80s & 90s generation, Pakistan is nothing but a despicable cess pool that is a breeding ground for terrorism, religious fundamentalism and gross political mismanagement leading to failed state. This 80s and 90s generation is setting the economic success in India and has brought Modi to power. This generation questions the Gandhi and Nehru era leave alone the UNMOGIP or any other foolishness that had happened at that time.

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