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Pervez secures UN sniper-point

New York, Sept. 27: Pakistan today opened a new, volatile front in its fight against India when it was elected for a two-year term to the UN Security Council.

The election poses a major diplomatic challenge to Delhi and will keep South Block on its toes during the next two years as Islamabad uses its leverage on UNís top table to target India on Kashmir, human rights, religious violence and a host of other issues.

Pakistanís election as one of the 10 non-permanent members of the Council is not a surprise: Islamabad has been diligently working towards this goal for at least three years. What is a surprise is the unanimous choice of Islamabad by the Asian group in the UN General Assembly as its candidate for the Asian seat in the Council.

This seat is currently held by Singapore, which will make way to Pakistan on January 1, 2003, following the unchallenged endorsement of Pakistan by Asian countries and the formality of an election today.

Other non-permanent members elected today are: Spain, Germany, Chile and Angola. Five other non-permanent members who will complete their two-year term at the end of next year are: Syria, Mexico, Bulgaria, Cameroon and Guinea.

Pakistanís membership of the UNís ďCabinetĒ will bring it closer to the US even as the Bush administration is seeking new allies in the world body in its efforts to bend the UN to its will on Iraq and a host of other issues.

In anticipation of Pakistanís election, its minister of state for foreign affairs, Inam-ul-Haq, this week met top US officials in Washington to preface Islamabadís role as an incoming member of the Council.

Pakistanís embassy in Washington acknowledged that Haq had discussed todayís election in his meetings with secretary of state Colin Powell and his deputy, Richard Armitage.

Keeping the Council membership in mind, General Pervez Musharraf recently beefed up his countryís permanent mission to the UN, replacing former foreign secretary Shamshad Ahmed by Munir Akram, a veteran Pakistani diplomat who has dedicated much of his career to UN work.

Akram was Pakistanís permanent representative to the UN in Geneva for seven years before moving to New York this year and was additional foreign secretary earlier. His first foreign posting as a diplomat in 1969 was to Pakistanís permanent mission to the UN here and then he served as director in charge of UN in the foreign ministry in Islamabad. Subsequently, he served at Pakistanís permanent mission to the UN in Geneva and was director-general in the foreign ministry in charge of UN.

In a prelude to what India can expect with Pakistanís election to the Security Council, one of Akramís first initiatives after his posting to New York in May was to get Council members to meet informally to discuss Kashmir.

He used a NGOís platform for this purpose and secured the support of some bleeding hearts in the UN system and that of willing Council members such as Mexico.

But India effectively foiled Akramís effort when Russia and Mauritius ó an outgoing member of the Security Council ó were persuaded to threaten a boycott of any such meeting. Thereafter, the meeting was a non-starter.

But with its leverage flowing from the Council membership, Pakistan will now come upfront with such tactics against Delhi, instead of having to rely on proxies like Mexico.

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