New Delhi, September 13: Criticized for its blatant interference in the micro-management of a pro-Pakistani government in Afghanistan, Pakistan has embarked on a major damage limitation exercise to save its reputation. Islamabad’s response includes a major diplomatic offensive during the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) to counter the widely held perception that it has placed leading weapons in the Haqqani network known to be being engaged in international terrorism at the heart of the Taliban-led government in Afghanistan.
Led by Prime Minister Imran Khan, Pakistan could send a giant delegation of nearly 40 diplomats to New York.
The 76th session of the UNGA, which begins on September 14, will see up to 83 heads of state, according to Volkan Bozkir, the current president of the UNGA. The face-to-face meeting is gaining in importance this year as the previous session had to be converted to an online meeting due to the pandemic.
According to senior sources, the Pakistani delegation will be led by Khan with Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Foreign Minister Sohail Mahmood accompanying him. The other diplomats will come from its UN missions as well as from its Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Imran Khan is due to address UNGA on September 24.
In addition, at the top of the agenda are the bilateral meetings which will be held from September 21 to 24. These include meetings with UN Secretary-General Antnio Guterres; the newly elected President of the United Nations General Assembly Abdulla Shahid and the Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Yousef Al-Othaimeen.
Pakistan would hold bilateral meetings with the foreign ministers of the world powers of the United States, Russia and China, as well as with important Islamic nations, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, as well as than other countries.
Sources say Pakistan is looking to meet with other countries like the UK, Maldives who will take over the presidency of UNGA, Ireland which holds the presidency of the Security Council for the current month and a number from European countries.
This year’s UNGA meeting was carefully planned as an in-person meeting after last year’s scare due to the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Washington has asked the UN to keep the meeting low-key due to the threat from the Delta variant of the coronavirus. The UN mission has already sent a letter to 192 member countries to address the meeting via video mode instead of sending their delegations, which could lead to hosting side events. However, despite protests and warnings from the United States, more than 80 heads of state are considering addressing the UNGA.
Experts believe that in addition to discussions on the Afghan situation and issues of recognition to the Taliban government, there could be high-level events on climate change and energy, food security, vaccines and racism.
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