15 December 2004

When the name of someone with a track record like Ambassador Munir Akram is mentioned as candidate to head UNCTAD, a general response is: "What? One more Pakistani?!" Names are then listed of several nationalities who -- it is generally assumed -- found their way through the Secretary General's Chef de Cabinet, their compatriot Iqbal Riza.

The upshot of it is that with an unfair backlash and an overflowed quota, doors are almost closed for outstanding citizens of that proud and misunderstood country. Unless personally favoured, no qualified Pakistani can find his or her way to a meaningful posting. At U.N. headquarters alone, there is an impressive number of Pakistani journalists, none of whom was seriously considered for a regular assignment. Take the Vienna example. Broadcasting networks in Europe (particularly London) and elsewhere are loaded with Pakistani men and women of the highest calibre. Why did it have to be Nasrat Hassan? It gives the impression of favouritism while blocking the visibility of those who will certainly raise the name and flag to the highest professional horizons. So many qualified young Pakistanis roam world capitals accepting jobs below their talents because they have no other choice. Does Pakistani youth have to be exclusively represented by Imran Iqbal Riza?!

Pakistan, like India for that matter, is an unflinchingly loyal U.N. country. Its decent creative talented people deserve a better reputation at U.N. headquarters and wider opportunities at all levels for all ages throughout the U.N. system. Otherwise, imposing a limited few in some visibly embarrassing jobs may be good for few selected Pakistanis. But is it unfair to Pakistan.