Pakistani Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif’s participation in the World Economic Forum, at Davos, Switzerland, in the third week of January, has created somewhat of a media circus in Pakistan. Govt of Pakistan had presented his trip has an important foreign undertaking but local media soon claimed that he was neither invited by any key sponsors nor was he allowed to speak at any of the sessions. This then prompted a lengthy explanation from the sources in Prime Minister’s Office in a paper considered aligned with the government of premier Nawaz Sharif.
Daily Times, one of the leading English papers lead the charge by claiming that PM Nawaz Sharif stayed four days in Davos, along with a delegation, in most luxurious hotels, at the expense of national exchequer but did not address any session. Paper asserted that he was not allowed, by the Davos management, to make a speech because of corruption allegations against him back home in Pakistan.
Paper further asserted that Nawaz Sharif could only hold a meeting with the Sri Lankan Prime Minister and no bilateral meeting with the head of any other country took place. This definitely looks strange given the fact that several heads of the state were present at Davos.
Contrast with Gen. Raheel Sharif?
PM Nawaz Sharif stayed four days in Davos, along with a delegation, in most luxurious hotels, at the expense of national exchequer but did not address any session.
Paper, in apparent mischief, contrasted this with recently retired COAS, Gen. Raheel Sharif who was invited by the key sponsors and who spoke at 3-4 sessions on the issues related to terrorism. It is interesting that how Gen. Raheel Sharif, immediately after his moment of glory at Davos, faced the public opprobrium when information about huge land allotments to him by Punjab government, originally made in 2014, were suddenly leaked to media.
Nawaz Sharif activities at Davos
Daily Times asserted, quoting unnamed official sources, that PM Nawaz spent four days at Davos, mostly talking with the Pakistani journalists and left for London in sheer desperation, implying that his team or diplomats kept on trying to create high-level meetings or opportunities for him but failed.
Another Pakistani TV Channel, News 24, claimed that Pakistani PM was invited to attend only one session, but that session itself was presided over by the Oscar-winning film maker, Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy. Nawaz Sharif did not attend any other session, did not meet any key global leaders, kept meeting CEO’s of companies despite the fact that several heads of state and government were present there.
These assertions in Daily Times and Channel News 24, that spread like fire through the social media were then responded to by a paper, Daily Pakistan, considered sympathetic to PM Nawaz Sharif.
Explanation of Prime Minister’s Office?
In what looked like a handout or explanation coming straight from the Prime Minister’s office, the paper claimed that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was not barred from speaking at World Economic Forum owing to the ongoing investigations against him in Pakistan. Paper asserted that while the issue of corruption was never discussed at Davos, but it was certainly a diplomatic failure and lack of push by the members of the organizing committee that PM Nawaz could not speak at any session.
PM was invited to attend only one session, but that session itself was presided over by the Oscar-winning film maker, Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy.
Daily Pakistan asserted that “as soon as the prime minister landed back in Pakistan after attending the prestigious World Economic Forum, a succession of rumours was launched suggesting that he was not allowed to speak at the forum due to his alleged involvement in mega corruption scandals”.
Paper denied these news items as rubbish but ended up creating other questions. It explained in a manner that almost sounded accusatory that there were two Pakistanis who were a part of the organizing committee, at Davos: Mr. Ikram Saigol of Pathfinder Group and Oscar-wining film maker, Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy. And paper asserted that neither pushed for the Prime Minister’s speech.
So was Prime Minister of Pakistan then relying upon Ikram Sehgal and Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy to help him be on a Davos panel?
So was Prime Minister of Pakistan then relying upon Ikram Sehgal and Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy to help him be on a Davos panel? From the rather accusatory nature of the story in Daily Pakistan – identifying Ikram Sehgal and Sharmeen Obaid as two Pakistanis who were obliged to help – this impression gets support.
Ikram Sehgal’s Pathfinder group, is a key sponsor of the Davos World Economic Forum for the past several years and it was this group that had invited ex-Army Chief, Gen. Raheel Sharif to speak at the sessions related to terrorism. But Ikram Sehgal is a known vocal critic of PM Nawaz Sharif in media and one would not expect him to be inviting Nawaz Sharif to speak at a session organized by him.
Sharmeen Obaid’s documentary, “A Girl In The River: The Price of Forgiveness” that won her the second Oscar in the 88th Academy awards, was screened at the Prime Minister’s Office, in January of 2016
Sharmeen Obaid’s documentary, “A Girl In The River: The Price of Forgiveness” that won her the second Oscar in the 88th Academy awards, was screened at the Prime Minister’s Office, in January of 2016, apparently at the insistence of Ms. Maryam Nawaz and it is possible that some people close to Prime Minister had thought that Sharmeen Obaid will be or should be able to organize some speaking opportunity for the PM Nawaz.
However Sharmeen Obaid, unlike Ikram Sehgal, is not heading a sponsoring business group and her presence there would in all probability be supported by some sponsoring business group; she might not have been in a position to invite PM Nawaz Sharif to speak even if she wanted to.
One thing is clear, from version of PM Nawaz’s Office, in Daily Pakistan’s story, that there was an expectation that Ikram Sehgal or Sharmeen Obaid or Pakistani diplomats will somehow manage Nawaz Sharif on a panel. Then the question arises: Why they could not do it? The perspective of both Ikram Sehgal and Sharmeen Obaid is not available.
Daily Pakistan also published a copy of the invitation which PM Office received from Prof. Charles Schwabb, founder of World Economic Forum, written in July of 2016 inviting him to Davos in January of 2017. This also makes it obvious that Daily Pakistan team had direct access to sources inside the Prime Minister’s team.
However what Daily Pakistan does not mention is that such generic invitations are extended to hundreds of important personalities by Davos, almost every head of the state, and Prof. Charles Schwabb does not manage the sessions or who speaks in them but sponsors do.
This brings back the initial question: Why he went to Davos, taking a delegation, at public expense, without a clearly defined agenda, that befits a head of the state?
This instant letter was written in July and in the last para, Prof Schwabb mentions that his team will work closely with the Prime Minister’s office to build a personalized agenda for him. Its quiet possible that PM Nawaz never decided to attend Davos in July and only made up his mind very close to the event itself, which did not give time and opportunity to his diplomatic mission in Switzerland and other countries to organize his high profile meetings. This brings back the initial question: Why he went to Davos, taking a delegation, at public expense, without a clearly defined agenda, that befits a head of the state?