Outcry as Pakistan appoints new ambassador to United Nations

ISLAMABAD: A decision by Pakistan to appoint a former diplomat as its ambassador to the United Nations has sparked criticism over his alleged involvement in a domestic violence dispute in 2002. Munir Akram “has been appointed as Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations in New York, in place of Dr Maleeha Lodhi,” the country’s ministry of foreign affairs said in a statement late Monday.

Akram served a previous stint in the post from 2002 to 2008. But in January 2003 the United States asked Pakistan to waive Akram’s diplomatic immunity so that he could be prosecuted on assault charges. According to press reports, New York police were called to Akram’s home on December 10, 2002 by a woman who alleged the envoy had beaten her. The woman told police dispatchers that the envoy had smashed her head into a wall, that her arm hurt and that he had hit her before, according to the newspaper accounts.

The case could have had potentially embarrassing diplomatic ramifications. At the time, Pakistan was a key US ally in the war on terror, and had just taken up a seat on the UN Security Council, which was then considering whether to authorize military action against Iraq. Akram, who enjoys full diplomatic immunity, was never charged. Even so his return to the post ignited a swift backlash yesterday, many from women angered over the decision.

“In the age of #MeToo, the appointment… sends absolutely the wrong message to Pakistan men AND women; being a domestic violence perpetrator will earn you not just protection from the government but also not harm your career,” wrote feminist author Bina Shah in a statement posted on Twitter. Others decried Akram’s age-he is in his 70s-and his hawkishness over Pakistan’s arch-rival India, with Pakistani media suggesting that his appointment hints at a new, more aggressive policy by Islamabad over the disputed region of Kashmir.

Tensions between the nuclear-armed rivals are high after New Delhi in August moved to strip the portion of Kashmir which it runs of its autonomy. However many also praised him as a seasoned diplomat who would take up the role just as Pakistan is trying to rally the international community to challenge India over Kashmir. The widely-respected Lodhi, who had served in the post for four years, said on Twitter that she had planned to move on after last week’s UN General Assembly, and wished Akram luck in the role.

9-year-old among 144 minors detained in Indian Kashmir

KASHMIR: A security officer stands guard to block a road near closed shops while strict restrictions are imposed during a lockdown in Srinagar. — AFP

144 minors detained
Meanwhile, a police list seen by AFP showed yesterday that Indian authorities in Kashmir have detained 144 minors, including a nine-year-old, since the government removed the region’s special status in August. Sixty of the minors are under 15, according to the document submitted to a committee appointed by India’s Supreme Court to look into allegations of illegal detentions. Reasons given by the police for detaining the minors include stone pelting, rioting and causing damage to public and private property, the committee said in its report. Most have since been released. The police however denied that any child was taken into “illegal detention” and said that the juveniles are “dealt strictly (with) as per the prescribed law”. “It happens often that when minors/juveniles indulge in stone pelting, that they are momentarily held up on the spot and sent home.

Some of these incidents are exaggerated beyond proportion,” the report quoted the police as saying. New Delhi stripped Indian-administered Kashmir of its autonomy on August 5, sending in tens of thousands of extra troops, cutting telecommunications and detaining thousands of people. Almost two months on, many of the region’s top politicians remain in custody and mobile phones and the internet remain largely snapped in the Kashmir Valley, the main trouble hotspot.
UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said last month she was “deeply concerned about the impact of recent actions by the government of India on the human rights of Kashmiris”. Kashmir has been split between India and Pakistan since 1947 and has been the spark of two wars. Last week Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan told the UN General Assembly that India could unleash a “bloodbath” in the Muslim-majority territory. An uprising against Indian rule, which New Delhi blames on Islamabad, and a tough Indian response has killed tens of thousands of people since 1989, most of them civilians.- Agencies