Under fire from ngos, the united nations and Pakistan have begun a damage control exercise by offering to jointly host press briefing by mukhtar Mai, whose defiant response to gangrape on orders of a village council in Pakistan has made her champion of women’s causes.
The UN had blocked her briefing on January 20, the day Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz addressed the press conference after a meeting with Secretary-General Kofi Annan. The world body had said it had told the non-governmental organisations, which were organising the briefing, that it had to be postponed on the urging of the Pakistan mission to the UN.
But as the incident backfired, both the UN and the Pakistani mission sought to put blame on junior officials, saying seniors were not consulted on the matter. The question seeking the reason for the Pakistani action at the press conference embarrassed Aziz who said he had no idea that her briefing was blocked.
Mai, who postponed her departure, was still in New York yesterday when the UN spokesman admitted that it was a “very unfortunate” incident and said the world body together with the Pakistani mission was contacting the ngo which had sponsored her and “see how we can bring her back here to give her a platform from which to speak in this house.” “and from what I understand that would be an event co-sponsored by both UN and the Pakistani mission,” he said.
The spokesman said the decision to cancel the event was taken within the Non Governmental Organisation section of the department of economic and social affairs.
“Senior management was unaware of the event and it is a pity that we weren’t, so that we could have found a forum at an appropriate date to speak in this house. She should be able to speak in this house,” the spokesman said.
When questioned at Aziz’s press conference why the United Nations bowed to the Pakistani protest, Shashi Tharoor, the under secretary general for communications, said he could not comment on this specific case.
“As a general principle, indeed there are written instructions guiding the holding of any event on UN premises in which we are obliged to take into account views formally expressed by member states. This is a building and an organisation that belongs to the member states,” he said. —PTI