In a hard fought campaign, Dr Sania Nishtar emerged as a professional of the highest calibre in her field, and a point of pride for Pakistan. It was a crushing disappointment to all watching her progress and cheering on her campaign, to hear that she was defeated by the Ethiopian candidate, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Having left no stone unturned, and with a campaign many described as exemplary, Dr Nishtar was supported with fervour and enthusiasm by several Pakistani ambassadors and politicians involved in the campaign directly. She was lauded as having unbeatable professional credentials, and had the case been one decided on merit alone, the new World Health Organisation chief may well have been she.

Sadly, merit is not the only qualification. Not just in such decisions in Pakistan, but even internationally it can take a severe beating when faced by bloc politics. The entire African bloc banded together to float Dr Ghebreyesus of Ethiopia as the ‘African candidate’. As such, he had the unwavering support from the start of dozens of African countries, which then led the way to the support of the European countries.

Despite our best and sincere efforts, it seems Pakistan has a long way to go in ensuring that its professionals and candidates can rely on the well wishes and vote support of countries expressing confidence in the candidate as a way of expressing friendship with Pakistan.

The fault lies not with the candidate, nor the ambassadors, nor the foreign office. The fault lies with Pakistan’s image globally. Perhaps even a reserve of the oft lamented ‘soft power’ would not have been enough to help Dr Nishtar secure victory. But it wouldn’t have hurt. And if not for Dr Nishtar, but for the next excellent candidate that stands for a prestigious post, we must be in a better position to help them claim victory for Pakistan.