Maleeha Lodhi takes charge as UN permanent representative

NEW YORK: Assuming charge as Pakistan’s first female ambassador and permanent representative to the United Nations, Dr Maleeha Lodhi on Thursday vowed to “protect and defend” her country’s vital interests and world body.

“It is a great honour and privilege to represent Pakistan at such a critical moment for the country and at a time when the world is undergoing fundamental changes,” she told journalists in New York.

She was adamant that while some of the changes posed new challenges, others would offer opportunities.

Responding to a question, regarding her role in the UN, the envoy said “first and foremost is to protect and promote Pakistan’s vital national interests and ensure that the country’s policies and views on critical issues are clearly articulated and fully understood.”

Ambassador Lodhi’s remarks suggest her keenness to change the narrative about Pakistan and focusing on how efficiently Pakistan is addressing its many challenges.

She elaborated on Pakistan’s national priorities and said “the establishment of internal peace and stability is the overriding priority, which entails a robust law enforcement campaign that is underway, aimed at defeating militancy and countering violent extremism.”

She added that Pakistani diplomats needed to build a better international understanding of this campaign as well as support for these efforts.

Lodhi said that stabalisation of Afghanistan and to secure Pakistan ’s western border was also a top national priority. To that end, she said, Pakistan is actively engaged in efforts to help the Afghan government in its objective to initiate an intra-Afghan dialogue that can eventually secure durable peace.

Another key priority for Pakistan is to promote peace and stability in South Asia. This, she said, involves addressing the issue of Kashmir and the present fraught border situation with India.

Ambassador Lodhi said that 2015 would be an important year at the UN as it would be marking its 70th anniversary of its founding. There will be a host of issues to address and many events to participate in.

“We will, in the course of the year, have to evolve the post-2015 development agenda, hopefully conclude a new climate change treaty after an important summit in Paris, as well as consider proposals for UN reform,” she said.

International peacekeeping will be another key area, she pointed out. Pakistan has long been a leading nation in its contribution to the maintenance of international peace and security.

“Since 1960, over 150,000 of our personnel have served with professionalism and distinction in 41 UN missions in different parts of the world,” Lodhi noted.

Today, she said, Pakistan is the second largest troop-contributor to UN peacekeeping missions and is expected to be number one later this year. Pakistan can be proud of its role in some of the prominent successes of peacekeeping, she said, adding that Pakistani women have also distinguished themselves in peacekeeping.

INP

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