Dr Maleeha Lodhi has completed her term as Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United Nations on a “high note” after having served as Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United Nations for the past four and half years.
Ambassador Lodhi was Pakistan’s first female Pakistani Permanent Representative at the UN and now returns to the country to take up an important assignment, according to informed sources. She will be replaced by Munir Akram, a veteran Pakistani diplomat and former UN ambassador.
“It has been an honour to serve the country and I am grateful for being given this opportunity to do so for over four years,”Ambassador Lodhi said in an interview.
“Representing Pakistan at the world’s most important multilateral forum was both a privilege and an enormous responsibility. I had planned to move on following the United nations General Assembly and am fortunate to leave on a high note after a successful visit by Prime Minister Imran Khan and am humbled by the appreciation I have received and the support I have also received over the years.”
Ambassador Lodhi said that this assignment was her greatest professional challenge at a time of profound global flux and multiple foreign policy challenges and, during her tenure, she saw Pakistan back on the multilateral map. Maleeha Lodhi was well prepared for the job, having served two terms as Ambassador to the US and five years as a high-profile High Commissioner in the UK.
At the UN, she effectively articulated Pakistan’s position on Kashmir. She had the distinction of ensuring the first meeting in 50 years of the UN Security Council on Kashmir last month after more than five years.
On Afghanistan she often clashed with the representative of Kabul, rebutting his attacks on Pakistan in a robust but dignified manner. No critique of Pakistan ever went unanswered by her. However the main theme of her presentations in the Security Council and General Assembly was always that a negotiated end to the war was urgent and that there could be no military solution.
Her advocacy of the Kashmir cause provoked the ire of the Indians while winning her public appreciation from the All Parties Hurriyat Conference leaders including Syed Geelani, it was pointed out. She raised the Kashmir issue at every forum she could and her response in the UN General Assembly to the Indian Foreign Minister’s tirade against Pakistan in 2016 went viral, attracting millions of hits on UTube.
On issues of vital importance to Pakistan, such as Security Council reform, she played a leadership role with representatives of like-minded countries to counter the effort by the G4 ( India, Japan, Brazil and Japan) to steer the negotiations toward securing permanent seats for themselves.
She was also able to effectively blunt efforts by India and another unfriendly state to malign Pakistan in the UN Sanctions Committee on terrorism issues, the sources said.
Ambassador Lodhi also worked tirelessly to maintain Pakistan’s leadership role in the area of UN Peacekeeping and organized for the first time a grouping of Troop and Police contributing countries led by Pakistan.
On Palestine, she spoke out frequently and passionately.
Her engagement on a host of global issues, from migration, child rights to green energy and the SDGs, was evident from her countless formal statements as well as participation in side events on these issues.
Her active involvement in the various reform processes at the UN earned her frequent appreciation of the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres who repeatedly conveyed to visiting Pakistani officials what an effective envoy she was and how the UN had benefitted from her powerful presence, according to the sources.
She frequently organized side events on key issues such as counter terrorism, xenophopia, Islamophobia, and forced migration, which were always largely attended.
Ambassador Lodhi brought special flair to the projection of Pakistan’s soft power. The first-ever concert in the General Assembly organized by Pakistan on its national day took place in 2017 with the Qawali of Rahat Fateh Ali Khan rocking the audience in the packed hall.
Another concert was organized in the following year, again in the General Assembly, this time a performance by Sachal Jazz group from Lahore.
Her cultural diplomacy efforts went beyond this to set other ‘Firsts’. She organized the first ever Pakistan Film Festival outside the country in 2017 which also say a glittering reception at the UN with Pakistani starts mingling with top UN officials and diplomats from over 150 countries.
A second Pakistan Film Festival followed in 2019 , again with a packed to capacity reception at the UN to introduce Pakistani stars.
Ambassador Lodhi also organised a celebration of Eid for the first time at the UN where the UNSG was chief guest.
She staged an exhibition of contemporary Pakistani art at the UN which was attended by the UN Secretary General. Other exhibitions at the UN she put together were on Pakistan’s role in Peacekeeping and on Pakistan’s female trail blazers.
Showings of both documentary and feature films were also part of Maleeha Lodhi’s nonstop public diplomacy efforts. Funds were often generated by her for some of these activities from young members of the Pakistani diaspora in New York.