Could you tell us about your career and what led you to the position of Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the UN?
I joined the Foreign Service of Pakistan in 1994. Since then I have worked in various positions in Islamabad and at our bilateral Missions in Europe (Bonn, Copenhagen), Asia (Beijing) and multilateral post in North America (UN in New York). Most of my professional career revolved around arms control issues, with three stints in Islamabad and two in New York. Before coming to Geneva, I led the Foreign Ministry’s multilateral department, handling diverse subjects such as human rights, arms control, counter-terrorism, and climate change. So, in a professional sense, work in Geneva is mostly aligned with my previous experience.
What are the highlights and setbacks of your career?
I consider myself fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with some of the finest diplomats Pakistan has produced. I also feel blessed to have worked on bilateral and multilateral assignments both at Islamabad and several capitals abroad. One of the highlights was the honor to have been appointed Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva on my first ambassadorial assignment. I do not recall any setbacks in my career, however, I share growing concerns in Geneva and elsewhere over the setbacks to the multilateral architecture and its foundational principles and norms.
For those who have not visited Pakistan before, how would you describe the main components of its cultural identity?
Pakistan’s cultural identity is a fascinating mosaic of traditions, landscapes and linguistic diversity marked by many historical influences of various civilizations that have flourished in our region. This diverse heritage has given rise to a multifaceted culture that is a harmonious blend of customs and traditions from different parts of the country. From the colorful festivals of Punjab to the mystic Sufi traditions in Sindh, the vibrant tapestry of Balochi and Pashtun cultures as well as the majestic mountains and glacial lakes in Gilgit Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan’s cultural, linguistic and geographic diversity is a testament to the co-existence of numerous distinct identities under one national umbrella.
Hospitality is a cornerstone of Pakistani culture. Visitors to Pakistan are greeted with open hearts and genuine warmth. This welcoming spirit reflects the kindness and generosity of the Pakistani people. Moreover, Pakistan’s cultural identity is also characterized by its artistic diversity. Pakistan is a treasure trove of art, architecture, music and musical instruments, folk dance, and literature. From the stunning Mughal architecture of Lahore’s Badshahi Mosque to the inspiring poetry of our national poet, Allama Iqbal, Pakistani culture encompasses a wide array of artistic expressions. Pakistan’s rich culinary heritage is another integral part of its cultural identity. From aromatic biryanis to spicy curries and delicious sweets, the Pakistani culinary landscape mirrors its multicultural history, drawing inspiration from the various cultural influences that have shaped the region. Pakistan’s cultural identity is a vibrant fusion of traditions, regional diversity, hospitality, art and a rich tapestry of culinary delights, all rooted in its fascinating historical and cultural heritage.
As a multicultural country with a diverse population, how do you see the country evolving as one?
We see our diversity as a source of strength, where people with distinct but complementary ways of life contribute towards the shared goal of national development. Moreover, Pakistanis are united by our shared values of dignity, family, and modesty, our commitment to peace and pursuit of prosperity.
These common values and aspirations have shaped Pakistan’s development and the evolution of our society. Growing urbanization is also driving a convergence of values, with our metropolitan centers emerging as melting pots synthesizing the best of everything that makes Pakistan special.
Pakistan is very fortunate to have ethnic, cultural, and linguistic diversity. Our rich heritage and vibrant culture result from a centuries-old process that has enriched the base of our civilization and society.
With so much conflict in the world, what are the diplomatic priorities for ensuring peace and stability within Pakistan and its neighbors?
Our world is undergoing significant transformations. Power projection is becoming a new normal. There is intensified competition between major powers, and a drift towards confrontation. This can push the world again into ‘bloc’ politics. A new ‘Cold War’ seems to be taking shape. Arms build-ups and weaponization of new and emerging technologies are transforming the nature of future warfare. Conflicts are raging in different places.
The introduction of offensive weapon systems, provocative doctrines, and aggressive force postures are increasing risks of inadvertent escalation and military misadventures, undermining the already fragile strategic stability, including in our region.
South Asia, home to nearly one-fourth of the human population, remains mired in disputes, hostilities, and mistrust despite historical, cultural, linguistic, ethnic, and geographical linkages between its peoples.
In this context, the challenge for Pakistan is to counter these negative trends with more multilateralism and to continue making efforts for peace and prosperity. Pakistan continues to support the principles of fairness, non-discrimination, and a rules-based international order rooted in strong multilateral values that aim to ensure equal and undiminished security and prosperity for all. We have promoted confidence-building measures, risk-reduction strategies, arms control, and restraint regimes as well as a regional connectivity agenda.Our effort is to stay clear of the geostrategic and geopolitical constructs. We do not seek to partake in any power competition.
In recent years, we have placed a particular emphasis on geo-economics, promoting regional connectivity for shared economic prosperity and development in the adjacent regions. We want to position Pakistan as an economic hub and melting pot for positive regional and global interests centered on economic security. These are built on three interconnected pillars reflecting connectivity (for example, through China Pakistan Economic Corridor – a flagship project of Belt and Road Initiative), development of economic bases and most critically peace within our region and beyond.