Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is leaving for New York on 23 September (today) to attend the 69th session of United National General Assembly amid escalating domestic political pressure by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) for his resignation. With no scheduled meetings so far with key world leaders including President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the visit is taking place at a time when Imran Khan is pressing for his resignation with a renewed vigour and zeal particularly his highly impressive show in Karachi.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, according to reports, is expected to raise the Kashmir issue in his speech at the UN General Assembly on Friday and has no scheduled meeting with his Indian counterpart on the sidelines. This was confirmed to Business Recorder by Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam. She said: “no, nothing is scheduled” while responding to a text message “whether Prime Minister has scheduled meetings with Indian Prime Minister Modi and US President Obama on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly”.
In marked contrast Modi is undertaking his first visit to the US where he is scheduled to meet Obama. According to Indian media, Obama and the first lady Michelle Obama will host Prime Minister Modi for a private dinner at the White House on September 29 (Monday) while there would be a summit level meeting on September 30 (Tuesday).
The Foreign Office on Monday released a brief schedule of the Prime Minister’s visit to New York, according to which the Prime Minister, accompanied by a small delegation, is leaving for New York on 23 September 2014. He will address the United Nations General Assembly on 26 September. The Foreign Office spokesperson last weekend defended participation in a high profile event, saying the UN General Assembly session is one of most important fora where world leaders gather to consider issues of peace and security, economic development, environmental issues, etc. She said it has been a longstanding practice to participate in the high level segment of the UN General Assembly at the leadership level and to make a policy statement which projects Pakistan’s perspective on vital issues of our interest.
However, analysts question the importance of the Prime Minister’s visit especially at a time when there is a political crisis within the country with opposition particularly PTI challenging his mandate following credible rigging allegations, the issue of IDPs and the devastation caused by the floods.
“He [PM Sharif] does not have any important message to convey to the international community and they [international community] will also not like to listen to a prime minister whose authority is being challenged at home,” said Air Marshal Shahid Hayyat (Retd), a political analyst. He maintained that the Prime Minister instead of going to the US should focus on resolving domestic issues.
The cost of the Prime Minister’s visit, estimated by the Foreign Office, is $400,000 and was so intimated in a letter to Chief Accountant, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a copy of which also sent to Financial Advisor [Representative of Finance Ministry] with the subject “special remittance for the PM forthcoming visit to New York” on August 21st, 2014.
The PM is however expected to participate in an energy conference being held on the sidelines of the UNGA session to explore ways to acquire energy through non-conventional sources. The premiers of Norway and Denmark are also expected to attend the conference. According to Foreign Office spokesperson, the Prime Minister will also co-chair UN Peacekeeping Summit along with US Vice President Joe Biden and a few other world leaders. On the sidelines of the United National General Assembly, the Prime Minister will hold bilateral meetings with many world leaders, she added. The premier will return to the country on September 27 along with his entourage of 14 people and security personnel.