ISLAMABAD: Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar’s five-day visit to New York to attend UN General Assembly session is being criticized due to his inability to meet prominent world leaders on the sidelines of the important world forum.
While in New York from September 19-23, the caretaker Prime Minister addressed the 78th session of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, in which he articulated Pakistan’s stated policy on many global issues.
However, there was no meeting scheduled with key global leaders attending the UNGA session apart from his engagement with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev, and Chinese Vice President Han Zheng.
Sources maintained that a scheduled meeting between caretaker Prime Minister Kakar and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan could not be held due to “certain reasons”.
Sources further stated that Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed Bin Abdul Rehman Bin Jassim Al-Thani was among the world leaders who attended the UNGA session, but caretaker Prime Minister Kakar’s meeting with the Qatari prime minister could not be scheduled for reasons that were not stipulated by the Foreign Office.
Caretaker prime minister Kakar’s decision to make the trip to New York at a time when the country’s economy is heavily dependent on borrowing both from external and internal sources due to an extremely narrow fiscal space and very high rates of inflation is being widely criticized as not presenting the right “optics” by an unrepresentative set up of a short duration.
Soon after taking oath as the caretaker Prime Minister, sources said that Kakar was given a comprehensive briefing on Pakistan’s foreign policy as well as the forthcoming international events by senior officials of the Foreign Office.
They said that the caretaker prime minister expressed his desire to participate in some of the events, which included the 78th session of UNGA and the Africa Climate Summit which was held in Nairobi from September 4 to 6. Initially, the caretaker Prime Minister had decided to attend the Africa Summit, but cancelled the trip later due to the ongoing “economic crunch,” the sources added.
A former diplomat who runs a think tank and spoke with Business Recorder on condition of anonymity said that the caretaker Prime Minister’s visit to New York was nothing, “but a waste of public money.” He said that the UNGA’s session is an annual event and many prominent world leaders rarely attend it - this year Chinese President Xi Jinping, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, the UAE President Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and French President Emmanuel Macron, opted not to attend.
The former diplomat further contended that it is highly unlikely for many world leaders to engage with a caretaker premier instead of an elected head of government or head of state. “Given his limited mandate, I don’t think it was important for a caretaker Prime Minister to attend the UN General Assembly session. Rather, caretaker foreign minister Jalil Abbas Jilani could have represented Pakistan at the world forum,” he said.
Kakar met with Managing Director of International Monetary Fund (IMF) Kristalina Georgieva on 20 September and while it provided a photo opportunity yet as predicted by economists there was no agreement to phase out the harsh upfront conditions or provide any respite to the inflation-hit public especially in terms of electricity bills.
Kakar also held a meeting with CEO of Rio Tinto Group Jakob Stausholm, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres on the sidelines of the UNGA session at the UN Headquarters.
After his five-day visit to the UN headquarters in New York, Kakar headed to London on September 23, and reportedly made a stopover in Paris where he also visited the Eiffel Tower with his family.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2023