Islamabad, Oct 1 (IANS) Known for his sharp rhetoric against India, senior Pakistani diplomat Munir Akram, who at age 74 has been appointed as Islamabads new envoy to the UN, has an unsavoury past — of a woman-beater.
In January 2003, when Akram was holding charge as Pakistan’s top envoy at the UN, his then 35-year-old live-in girlfriend Marijana Mihic had filed a case of battery against the envoy.
On December 10, 2002, at 1.36 a.m. Marijana had called in New York police to Akram’s home – 47 East 92nd Street in Manhattan, which she shared with him, complaining that he had beaten her up. She told the police that Akram, who she initially identified as her husband, had smashed her head against a wall, bruised her arm, and that he had hit her earlier too.
Marjorie Tiven, the then city commissioner in charge of UN issues, wrote to the US mission requesting that Akram’s immunity be removed so that they could prosecute him.
The embarrassment came even as on January 1, 2003 Pakistan bagged a seat on the 15-nation Security Council for a two-year term, and at a time when the Council was deciding whether to authorize a war on Iraq.
After the police walked into the flat, Marijana said that Akram was her “boyfriend” and that after an argument with him she had tried to leave.
“He prevented her from leaving, he grabbed her and she fell,” police spokesman Lt. Brian Burke was quoted as saying by the New York Times. The police officers at the scene reported that Marijana had a bruise on her head.
Akram, who was 57 then, was at the residence when the police arrived.
A spokesman for the Pakistani mission told the police later that Akram and his friend had reconciled.
“The ambassador and his friend both strongly believe that there is no basis for any legal action in this matter,” Mansoor Suhail, the spokesman, told authorities in New York. “And they have both communicated that belief to the concerned authorities.”
The New York Post, in a piece titled “UN diplo-basher won’t leave”, quoted Akram as saying that he would not leave, though Washington asked Pakistan to strip his diplomatic immunity so that he can face domestic-violence charges in Manhattan.
“My government sent me here to represent my country. I came to stay – and my government wants me to stay,” Akram told The Post in January 2003.
Media reports on the case had fuelled calls by women’s groups for Akram’s resignation. The Women’s Action Forum — an umbrella organization representing dozens of women’s groups — demanded that an envoy accused of battering a woman should not be allowed to continue. Religious groups in Pakistan too wanted him recalled, saying that an envoy who has been involved with a woman to whom he is not married cannot represent a Muslim nation.
However, on February 4, 2003, the District Attorney’s office dropped the investigation into the case. The US mission at the UN which had been asked to request the US state department to withdraw Akram’s diplomatic immunity, was also informed of the decision by the district attorney’s office.
Akram, who had separated from his Geneva-based American wife then, said later that he was still friends with Marijana.
“Women get angry,” he was quoted as saying. “You know how it is.”
He was appointed as Permanent Representative of the UN at the Geneva office from 1995 to 2002; he reached superannuation in 1999 but was hired again by the Pakistani government on extension contract, before holding the same post in New York, where he served till 2008.
He was dismissed by Asif Ali Zardari because of his disagreement over presenting the case of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto to the UN. He also also served as President of the Security Council for one term each in 2002 and 2004.
A frequent columnist for the Dawn and other papers, where he would hold forth on his anti-India views, in one piece in the aftermath of the Uri attacks of September 2016, and India’s cross-border reprisal strikes, Akram trashed the surgical strikes.
“The Indians have tried, disingenuously, to portray their artillery attacks along the LoC as ‘surgical strikes’ to appease whipped-up public fervour in India to ‘punish’ Pakistan. The open Indian claim to have crossed the LoC provides Pakistan with justification to retaliate against India across the LoC at a time of its choosing. Hopefully, Pakistan’s restraint in refraining will not encourage India to try ‘bolder’ action which could lead to a general conflict,” he wrote in the Dawn.
“There’s a real danger that as frustration at the failure of threats and bluster mounts in India, and Kashmiri protests continue, Modi may be tempted to take further reckless action,” he wrote.
“Even if war is avoided, normalisation of Pak-India ties is unlikely until the departure of the Hindu fundamentalist cohort from office. Pakistanis, including those who entertained illusions of friendship with Modi’s India, must unite to defend our nation from the menace we wisely escaped 69 years ago,” he wrote in the piece titled ‘Modi’s war’.”