Maleeha leaves UN to take up important role in Islamabad

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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Ambassador to the UN Maleeha Lodhi will leave New York to take up an important role in Islamabad after successfully completing her term.

The four years she served in one of the country’s top diplomatic posts were both eventful and significant in giving Pakistan a higher and more positive profile at the world’s most important multilateral organisation.

Both on substantive policy issues and in promoting Pakistan’s soft image, Ambassador Lodhi made a mark. This not only earned her frequent appreciation from the Secretary General of the UN but also made her one of the most high-profile figures at the world body.

She pulled no punches in advocating the Kashmir cause, using every platform and forum to remind the UN and the international community about the grim situation in occupied Kashmir and the need for a peaceful solution in line with long standing Security Council resolutions. She had the distinction of ensuring a meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss Kashmir in August in the wake of India’s illegal annexation of occupied Jammu and Kashmir. This was the first time the SC took up the dispute in over 50 years.

She received public praise from the leadership of the Hurriyat conference including Syed Ali Shah Geelani for her role. Her reply in the General Assembly to a tirade against Pakistan from India’s foreign minister became one of the defining features of her tenure, as it went viral on the social media and brought her much appreciation from occupied Kashmir as well as from Pakistanis across the political spectrum.

On other issues of critical importance to Pakistan she was equally fearless and erudite in articulating the country’s position. On Afghanistan for example her speeches were closely listened to especially as she locked horns with the Afghan Ambassador when he hurled accusations against Pakistan. Her responses were always dignified but emphatic.

Ambassador Lodhi also ensured a leadership role for Pakistan in the negotiation process on Security Council reform, another vital issue for the country. She worked tirelessly with the Uniting for Consensus countries to effectively counter the drive by the G4 (India, Brazil, Japan and Germany) to steer the process in favour of permanent seats for themselves, a goal they have failed to achieve.

Public diplomacy was pursued in ways that were unprecedented for the Pakistan Mission. Maleeha Lodhi brought her considerable cultural diplomacy experience from previous stints as Ambassador in Washington and London and took the projection of soft power at the UN to a new level.

Two concerts in the UN General Assembly for organised for the first time to mark Pakistan’s national days, the first in 2016 by the maestro of Sufi music, Rahat Fateh Ali and the second in 2017 by the Sachal Jazz ensemble from Lahore. They were a runaway success and became the talk of the UN.

Apart from that, exhibitions were also stage at the UN of contemporary art, Pakistan’s peacekeeping role and Pakistani women who made history among other topics. Lodhi also took the lead in organising meetings of women ambassadors, who have emerged as an influential cross regional group. With female ambassadors from the Muslim world she organised the very first celebration of Eid, which UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres attended and addressed.

Ambassador Lodhi also organised the first visit to Pakistan of the President of the General Assembly in almost 8 years in which Maria Fernanda Espinosa received detailed briefings on Kashmir