In the latest Government hosted lottery, 22 parliamentarians will get to be special envoys to a list of countries, to advocate Pakistan’s stance on Kashmir and highlight human rights abuses in Indian held Kashmir. There was of course a dire need for Pakistan to strengthen its diplomatic efforts internationally, but would it not be better if actual diplomats were doing the job and not legislators who need to be sitting in assemblies sorting out domestic issues?

The mishmash of overnight diplomats includes the Chairperson of the Polio Eradication Programme, a Parliamentary Secretary for Finance, Chief of JUI Maulana Fazlur Rehman, former federal ministers etc. The fact is that all these legislators have different backgrounds and will undoubtedly have different views on how international relations should be constructed even though they might all be well-intentioned about resolving the Kashmir issue. Most have no experience of international diplomacy. This is why there was a need, many years ago, for a well-trained and educated force of professional diplomats, honed in the art of negotiation and debate. This is another band-aid measure and we can only hope that there is thorough training of all these 22 envoys on how to advocate such an important issue. Diplomacy is a profession; it is not a skill that can be gained overnight.

Regardless of the concern that this may just amount to representatives having a nice little state-sponsored vacation, the move did make the Indian media throw a tantrum as if the PM was launching missiles and not envoys. The move was termed a ‘provocation’, ‘needling’ and ‘meddling’ in the country affairs. This criticism is myopic and unwarranted. As a sovereign state, we have the right to advocate our interests peacefully. If India cannot engage in diplomacy with Pakistan, Pakistan must engage other players. India is too big and its constant intimidation requires Pakistan to build some form of a global alliance to balance power in the region. This was a natural outcome of Indian aggression.

The most important lobbying effort has to be focused on the US, and that requires professional lobbyists to be stationed in Washington DC constantly advocating the issue and Pakistani interests. The congressional system is complex and influencing bills in America is not a simple task that just one official ambassador can undertake. A one-off trip by an elected representative will be too formal and too short.

At the minimum, these envoys can present a list of facts and hope for the good judgement of their international counterparts to prevail, even though the same has been done before at the UN and other international forums to the point of redundancy.