WASHINGTON DC: The reason Pakistan decided to name a woman beater, Munir Akram, as its permanent representative to the United Nations and unceremoniously remove Maleeha Lodhi from her post is apparently because her only son is married to a Hindu.
To be sure, this is one of the many reasons why Lodhi’s star dimmed but it was said to be the final straw that broke the camel’s back.
That this detail became known in the midst of the Kashmir fracas and a new low in India-Pakistan relations was too much for the army generals and Prime Minister Imran Khan to bear. Lodhi was deemed a security risk, according to well-informed sources, and her performance began being judged vis-a-vis her personal life.
Lodhi became the target of an intense public campaign once the news leaked that her son Faisal, who is in his late 30s, was married to an Indian-origin woman named Gaurika Gambhir. Old wedding photos circulated on Twitter last month.
Gambhir’s profile says she is from Delhi and has worked at ABN AMRO and HSBC banks. She studied at Columbia University.
Pakistanis began calling Lodhi a “traitor” to the cause and said there was a deep conflict of interest. Some called her an Indian agent but others defended her. Lodhi has refused to comment publicly on her son’s personal life and said that she had always planned to move on after the UN General Assembly this year.
Ironically, in 2003 she had told a British newspaper, The Telegraph, after becoming Pakistan’s high commissioner in London: “I want my son to marry a Pakistani Muslim. I’m very spiritual—it’s a critical part of me. One day, I want to go home.”
Home she did go but not voluntarily. Complaints had been piling up against Lodhi despite her efforts to endear herself to the present dispensation. Khan’s performance at the UNGA was hailed by supporters as sterling and she got some credit for that.
As Pakistani columnist Mohammad Taqi sarcastically asked on Twitter: “Haw hai, removing the manager of the #UNGA World Cup-winning team?”
It’s another matter that the rest of the world was appalled at Khan’s 50-minute speech, which included a veiled threat to use nuclear weapons. He became the first leader to threaten nuclear war from the podium of the UN.
It seems the removal of Lodhi, who was sometimes referred to as Gen. Lodhi for her proximity to Pakistan’s military-intelligence complex, was a long time coming. She was perceived as “incompetent” by the powers that be.
The reason: her total and utter failure to effectively raise the Kashmir issue in the United Nations over the past two months. She wasn’t able to rouse any country to go after India. Even China did the bare minimum and cut its losses. The U.S.-French wall was higher.
Lodhi’s handling of the UN Security Council’s “informal consultations” on August 16 following India’s decision to revoke Article 370 and divide Jammu & Kashmir into two union territories came under the scanner. Word got back to Islamabad that Lodhi didn’t have mastery over the complex rules and traditions of the UN system.
A Pakistani analyst said she often “twisted” facts and sometimes simply resorted to spreading untruths to make herself look good. Her self-promotion on Twitter is legendary.
Before and after the August 16 UNSC consultations on Kashmir, Lodhi gave exaggerated accounts of what she had “accomplished” to the Pakistani press, some of which she had to retract. She talked as if she was inside the room or had a representative when the consultations—called by China—were restricted to UNSC members.
Lodhi’s appearance at the podium immediately after was seen as ineffective and wooden. It looked even worse against the star performance by India’s Permanent Representative Syed Akbaruddin.
Lodhi didn’t take any questions while Akbaruddin did, including a few from Pakistani journalists. Rawalpindi was riled and Islamabad was incensed at this public failure, a Pakistani source said.
Pakistani American groups had anyway been complaining to Khan over time about her conduct. Malik Nadeem Abid, head of New York-based “Kashmir Mission USA,” in particular had gone after Lodhi for her failure to raise the Kashmir issue more aggressively. He has since claimed victory on Pakistani TV channels for her ouster.
Among Lodhi’s other major gaffes was her flashing a photo of a Palestinian girl at the UN in 2017, claiming it was evidence of “Indian brutality” in Kashmir. The picture was taken in 2014 in Gaza by a photographer named Heidi Levine, and the girl had been injured in an Israeli attack.
At this year’s UNGA, Lodhi referred to Boris Johnson as “foreign minister” instead of prime minister in a tweet. “Sorry typo in previous tweet. Prime Minister Imran Khan met British PM this morning,”
Back in Islamabad they said, my cup runneth over.
Lodhi has been around a long time, serving as Gen. Pervez Musharraf’s ambassador to the U.S. and high commissioner to the United Kingdom. Her latest stint in New York began with former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who didn’t want her in Washington but is said to have tolerated her presence at the UN to keep peace with the generals.
As things stand now, Akram will represent Pakistan in the era of the #MeToo movement—a man accused of beating his live-in girlfriend the last time he was Pakistan’s envoy to the UN.
The stables in “Naya Pakistan” must be empty that Khan found only Akram. In 2002, Akram was fodder for New York tabloids after his live-in girl friend Marijana Mihic accused him of physical abuse. Until then he was known mainly for verbal strikes, against India.
He scurried back to Pakistan before the U.S. State Department could revoke his diplomatic immunity and the case was hushed up.
Hopefully, he can’t do much harm to women around him at the ripe old age of 73. As for India, he can still do harm but his task is much tougher than before.
(The author is a Washington-based analyst and columnist. Views expressed in this article are personal.)