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In Pakistan, Belated UN Ban Trip Follows Kashmir Flip Flop, Echoes Ripert vs Holmes on JuD & Post Nargis Myanmar

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 15, updated -- Amid the human tragedy of the floods in Pakistan, the presence of politics, like the belated UN trip, cannot be missed. Today UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and his entourage have flown aboard a Pakistani military aircraft and told the media that the world has been too slow to respond. But, as one questioner pointed out, so has the UN.

   Ban in his Pakistan press conference said that "I have dispatched my Special Envoy for Pakistan, Mr. Ripert, immediately." But back on August 2 -- that is, two weeks ago -- Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky

Inner City Press: on Pakistan, just a quick follow-up. Where’s Mr. [Jean-Maurice] Ripert in all this? I mean, he’s the humanitarian coordinator for Pakistan. What’s been his role, particularly in light of the floods?

Spokesperson Nesirky: I think you’ll find the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Pakistan is Martin Mogwanja.

Inner City Press: I guess I’m just trying to understand more his role as special envoy — is it a full-time job, and what’s he been doing since the floods?

Spokesperson: Let me find out, but you can see and hear there’s a lot of activity going on.

Question: Mr. Ripert, is he leaving now, his post?

Spokesperson: Let me find out. We’re kind of focused on less on an individual and more on up to a million people who are displaced and in need of assistance. Yes?

Inner City Press: Not to be overly focused on one, but since the UN does have this humanitarian role, I think we both want to know…

Spokesperson: Yes, and I said I’ll find out.

Without ever explaining where the UN's envoy on Pakistan was as the floods grew worse and worse, two days later, Nesirky read out a statement by Ban calling on Ripert to go to Pakistan. (Nesirky would accompany Ban to Pakistan on Aug 15, after a particularly defensive and controlling noon briefing on Aug 13, during which he tried to shut down questions ranging from Gaza to author Tom Plate's statements that Ban will be the third subject in his "Giants of Asia" series. Nesirky insisted no commitment had been made, but sarcastically said the Press might have a crystal ball.)

  Ripert did belatedly head to Pakistan, and has among other things spoken about the danger of aid being provided by groups such as Jamaat-ud-Dawa, considered a front for Lashkar-e-Toiba.

  A week later, Inner City Press asked Pakistan's Permanent Representative to the UN Abdullah Hussain Haroon if it was useful to his country to have a UN Special Envoy like Jean-Maurice Ripert, who was given the job after Nicholas Sarkozy replaced him with Gerard Araud.

Rather than another job in the French foreign service, a UN job was invented for Ripert. Most say he has accomplished little, and that he tried to “get out” by applying for the top job for the UN in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which he failed to get.

  On August 11, Pakistan's Ambassador Haroon spoke dismissively in context of Ripert, saying “he was sent by the S-G... He is basically there on the S-G's orders, we thank him for being there but things were already being coordinated.” Video here, from Minute 8.

  One wondered: was this strikingly dismissive answer based on the lack of need for or use of Ripert's UN position, or on his comments on Islamic extremist groups, against which his nation's president Nicholas Sarkozy has declared war?

UN's Ban in Pakistan, spox as Kilroy, Ripert-Holmes split and Kashmir flipflop not shown

Next to Ambassador Haroon was outgoing top UN humanitarian John Holmes. While also absent until then from humanitarian crises in not only Pakistan but also Darfur, Holmes was and is more savvy politically than Ripert. (In fairness we also note Holmes' belated but clear August 13 call for access to Darfur's Kalma Camp.)

Inner City Press asked the two men about Ripert's claim that extremist groups, by responding first to the floods, might spread their ideology. Video here, from Minute 18:45. Are there area of Pakistan not under government control due to armed conflict, or whatever Islamabad is calling it these days?

  Holmes stepped in front of Haroon, whose face had grown stern or serious during the question. The UN must be above politics, Holmes proclaimed, referring diplomatically to “ongoing hostilities,” a term with fewer legal implications than “conflict,” which allows inquiry into the recruitment of child soldiers, for example, an issue in Pakistan on which the UN has done little.

Holmes said both that there are areas to which the UN has no access due to fighting, then that the UN reaches all areas with aid. “Thank you,” Haroon said, and the stake out was over.

  The subtext was that Haroon had already criticized the UK's David Cameron for speaking of terrorism. UK but also still UN Holmes took a different tack, different too from Ripert's, and got thanked.

  Holmes and Ripert, along with Ban's Indian chief of staff Vijay Nambiar, accompanied Ban on August 15. Nambiar's nationality is relevant not only due to the hostilities between India and Pakistan, but most recently due to Nambiar's role in watering down a statement on behalf of Ban's spokesperson about Kashmir. Click here for that.

  This was followed by news that Indian troops were wearing UN blue helmets as they shot protesters in Kashmir, and the UN's belated and seemingly incomplete reaction.

A South Asian journalist disgusted by the UN's backing away from its already bland statement on Kashmir harkened back to Ban's trip to Myanmar after Cyclone Nargis, complete with craven supplication to General Than Shwe who was allowed to steal up to 25% of aid money through forced currency exchange games swept under the carpet by the UN.

Later Team Ban cited the Myanmar trip as one of his major accomplishments, even saying that Ban had thereby saved 500,000 people. The South Asian journalist, made cynical by events such as the UN's Kashmir flip-flop, rhetorically asked Inner City Press, “how many people will Ban claim to have saved this time, when what he is mostly trying to save is his chance at a second term?”

  Even Inner City Press is disturbed by this level of cynicism, particularly when compared to the desparate need of the Pakistani people. Watch this site.

* * *

UN's Kashmir Email was Drafted by DPA from its "Morning Prayers," Watered Down by Nambiar, Blamed on Haq

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 5 -- When the UN made a statement on Kashmir, then stepped away from it and blamed it on an Associate Spokesman, there was more than met the eye. Inner City Press has inquired and finds the following: the initial response on the violence in Kashmir was produced by the UN Department of Political Affairs, in what is called it “morning prayers” meeting, chaired by DPA chief Lynn Pascoe.

  Then, even before the statement was released, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's chief of staff Vijay Nambiar, a former Indian diplomat and intelligence operative, edited the statement, “watering it down” as one senior UN official puts it.

  After UN Associate Spokesman Farhan Haq emailed the statement to four journalists and it was published, the Indian Mission to the UN protested. They came to meet with the UN, Mr. Nambiar, for more than two hours. Apparently, Nambiar did not fully disclose his initial role in editing the statement.

  Next, the UN Spokesman Martin Nesirky stepped away from the statement, emphasizing that Ban Ki-moon never said it, and it was mere “guidance from the Secretariat,” and claiming that it had been misinterpreted. How?

UN's Nambiar and Pascoe, Kashmir statement and morning prayers not shown

On August 4, Inner City Press asked Nesirky to think it through: if he could walk away from this statement attributable to the Office of the Spokesman for the Secretary General, how can any of his future statements be taken seriously? I have said all I am going to say, Nesirky replied. Okay...

Footnote: attendees that DPA's "morning prayers" quote Pascoe, for example that "Hillary Clinton is going to Colombia, what does she think she can accomplish?"  While some attendees conclude from this that Pascoe is aligned with US Republicans who appointed him, others say it establishes his "street cred" as an internaional civil servants. But is this what HRC and Obama want? Watch this site.

From the UN's August 3 noon briefing transcript:

Inner City Press: a controversy has arisen around a statement that Farhan Haq had put out, talking about Indian-occupied Kashmir and calling for restraint. And, basically, it says that the Indian Foreign Ministry or Ministry of External Affairs has taken issues with it, that your Office has clarified that the Secretary-General never made those comments. Have you seen that story, and what can you do to clarify the seeming discrepancy between the Indian Foreign Ministry and your Office?

Spokesperson Nesirky: The Spokesperson’s Office released to the media guidance which was prepared by the UN Secretariat, and that seems to have been taken out of context. This was not a statement of the Secretary-General.

Question: What was taken out of context? This was a formal statement.

Spokesperson: Let me repeat what I just said: the Spokesperson’s Office released to the media guidance which was prepared by the UN Secretariat, and it seems to have been taken out of context. This was not a statement of the Secretary-General. That’s what I have; I don’t have anything to add.

Question: But the statement said the Secretary-General calls for restraint, and is there concern about it?

Spokesperson: As I said, I don’t have anything to add to what I’ve just said.

From the UN's August 4 noon briefing transcript:

Inner City Press: Some think that the way that it was answered yesterday — it’s hard for them to take; what weight should statements by the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General be given if they’re later characterized as mere guidance and the Secretary-General didn’t mean them. For your own purposes, how do we — is this a one-off, or does this somehow change; you get a statement today about Tanzania — is that a statement of the Secretary-General, or is it mere guidance, and from who — who gave the guidance on Kashmir?

Spokesperson Nesirky: You know very well what it said [on Tanzania]: it said “a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General”, and that clearly is a statement. But I don’t have anything beyond what I’ve already said on this topic. Okay?

  No, not okay.

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

* * *

These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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