During his two-day visit to Pakistan, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had a busy schedule, covering diverse areas of interest ranging from disease to drones. His presence on the Independence Day ceremony has earned him immense goodwill among Pakistanis. Pakistan has traditionally supported the UN charter and its efforts for the maintenance of international peace and security.

While speaking at the National University of Sciences and Technology, the Secretary General commended the sacrifices made by Pakistan’s military and its contribution to UN peacekeeping forces around the world since 1960. Out of 47 troop contributing countries, Pakistan tops in terms of the number of troops and combat casualties. As of today, 8,000 personnel are performing peacekeeping duties the world over.

Ban was quite explicit on the issue of drone strikes, saying that they violated international law and that they should be used for gathering intelligence, rather than as instruments of aggression. He urged that their usage as a weapon must be subject to international law.

In addition, he was concerned about civilian casualties arising out of drone attacks. Britain’s Bureau of Investigative Journalism reveals: “The US has carried out nearly 400 drone strikes in Pakistan since 2004, killing up to 3,500 people, including hundreds of civilians.” Indeed, his remarks would be helpful as Pakistan is engaged in a diplomatic campaign to gather critical mass for making its case against drone attacks in Fata. Moreover, these comments are well timed, as the UN Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur will submit its report on drone strikes in September.

During his stay in Pakistan, the UN chief was able to have the firsthand feel of two ongoing events: the monsoon triggered floods Pakistan and Pak-India tension across the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir.

The floods have killed nearly 100 people and affected more than 80,000 in one way or the other. He received a comprehensive briefing at the National Disaster Management Authority. Pakistan is likely to need aid to overcome this latest developing natural disaster. Surely, his presence at the start of the crisis would ensure that requisite and timely help reaches those who need it the most. Expressing sympathies with the flood victims he said that Pakistan is amongst the countries most vulnerable to climate change and natural calamities. Keeping this in view, he extended UN’s full support to help Pakistan better cope with natural disasters and hoped the country would prioritise education, gender equality, poverty, reduction, and sustainable development to meet the Millennium Development Goals. Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif also shared his commitment to education, sustainable energy, food security, and human rights, especially for women, children, and minorities.

In addition, Secretary Ban offered to make efforts for the resolution of the Kashmir dispute. On a previous occasion too, he has expressed his concern about the ongoing Kashmir issue, which is one of the oldest items on the UN agenda. This matter would again come under focus during the forthcoming 68th session of the UN General Assembly. There is a need for fresh initiative on UN’s part to resolve it.

Meanwhile, Pakistan is working for peace and stability in the region. It earnestly desires to ease tension with India‚ start dialogue, and address all outstanding issues, including Jammu and Kashmir. PM Nawaz claimed “the escalation of tension at the Line of Control is a matter of grave concern,” hoping that, “the UN will play its due role in resolving the Kashmir dispute.” He said: “Pakistan will continue to exercise restraint and act with responsibility…….(and hoped that) India will also reciprocate to reduce the prevailing tension.” Indeed, Pakistan seeks a just and peaceful resolution in accordance with the UN resolutions and aspirations of the Kashmiri people. It would be worthwhile if the Secretary General appoints his special representative on Kashmir to facilitate a meaningful dialogue between India and Pakistan.

The UN and Pakistan have agreed to further strengthen partnership in addressing regional and global issues. The understanding came during a meeting between PM Nawaz and SG Ban. Later, addressing a joint news conference along with Nawaz‚ Ban said Pakistan has paid an enormous price in its war against terrorism, and the UN will be pleased to support it in this fight.

Describing the recent general elections as a milestone in the country’s history‚ he maintained it is high time for both the UN and Pakistan to further deepen their relations in different spheres. Ban said: “I firmly believe we need to widen our lens and look at Pakistan beyond any one dimension, prism or perspective. This is a vibrant, dynamic country full of promises and possibilities.”

Highlighting Pakistan’s efforts for bringing peace and stability in Afghanistan‚ PM Nawaz claimed that it wants a peaceful and stable Afghanistan and will extend all possible assistance for an Afghan led and Afghan owned peace process. The UN chief wholeheartedly welcomed its efforts to tackle serious challenges at home and strengthen relations with neighbours.

The Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s visit to Pakistan was quite wholesome; it would certainly improve interaction between the UN and Pakistan, and narrow the perceptional gaps on mutual, regional, and global issues. Islamabad, hopefully, would do the necessary follow up to translate policy articulations into workable action plans for all agenda items of the visit.

 The writer is a freelance columnist.