As Shamshed Ahmad stood before members of the Yale Political Union Tuesday, he faced a sea of skeptical faces.
“I cannot resist mentioning that when I entered this room, I felt nostalgic about my own time as president of a college political union,” said Ahmad, the permanent representative of Pakistan to the United Nations. “You make me very comfortable.”
The attempt to lighten the mood, however, was unsuccessful amid an atmosphere of impatience, and Ahmad quickly got down to business, speaking on the role of Pakistan in the post-Sept. 11 world.
“The world has changed beyond imagination,” Ahmad said. “The events of Sept. 11 presented us with a new reality that we are living in definite, difficult and unusual times, and Pakistan is playing an important role as a front-line country in the war against terrorism.”
Ahmad quickly made it very clear that terrorism of any sort has been condemned by Pakistan, and that his country plans to remain a partner of the United States and its allies.
He also elaborated on what he thought that partnership should entail.
“We have never turned our back on the United States,” Ahmad said. “And we don’t expect the United States to turn their back on us. Changing the leaders of one or two countries will not bring the end of terrorism, which is rooted in feelings of injustice.”
Throughout his speech, the ambassador continued to return to this theme of social justice and emphasized its importance in affecting real change.
“We must go beneath the skin to treat the disease rather than just treating the symptom or its ugly manifestations,” Ahmad said. “We must take a good-hearted, holistic approach that brings about social and economic justice and political freedom.”
Ahmad said that while the end of the Cold War in 1989 marked the beginning of a new era for most of the world, Afghanistan was left behind. He blamed the neglect of Afghanistan for September’s tragedy.
Before the speech, there was talk that the ambassador might make a Pakistani policy announcement.
“[YPU President Matthew Nickson ’03] has promised a major policy announcement tonight, so I was interested to see that,” Peter Somerville ’03 said.
But there was no such announcement, as the speech ultimately dealt with general ideas of diplomacy.
Nickson said Ahmad’s speech contained several important points.
“I thought it was surprising that he came out a lot more in support of the U.S. than his country has been in the past,” Nickson said. “No objections were raised about a Northern Alliance government in Afghanistan, which has been a point of contention.”
Ahmad said a new government should not be forced on Afghanistan.
“The only people who should have a role in the making of a government in Afghanistan are the people of Afghanistan,” Ahmad said. “They have never accepted a government imposed from the outside. Let them choose.”
While most of the discussion was dominated by talk of issues concerning Afghanistan, Ahmad also tried to make students aware of crises in Pakistan that deserve attention.
“The people of Kashmir were promised by U.N. Security Council resolutions that they would be given the right to choose their destiny, but this was never kept,” Ahmad said. “It has become the most dangerous place on earth, but the international community is indifferent.”
He said that Pakistan has suffered more than any other country from the crisis in Afghanistan, and that the housing of Afghan refugees has been a drain on its economy.