Please tell us about your foray into the field of politics. How did it all begin for you? I have negotiated three careers – teaching, journalism and diplomacy. The common thread running through these professional journeys was my passion to serve the public and to influence public policy. But my break in diplomacy came when in 1993, the late prime minister Benazir Bhutto asked me to take up the post of Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US. I was both humbled and challenged by this gracious offer. But I wasn’t sure if I could really live up to the expectations of what is among Pakistan’s top diplomatic assignments. When I voiced that apprehension to the prime minister, she said, “Well, you have been writing about foreign policy and offering policy advice on that count. Now go practice it.” I did and never looked back. But it reinforced in my mind the belief that so much of life is luck, chance or accident. The rest is hard work! You have a PhD in political science. Tell us about your experience studying for that and ultimately being awarded with this doctorate. While studying, had you always aimed at joining politics as a professional? When I was undertaking my higher studies, I also began teaching so I thought perhaps this was to be my calling. But I also started writing for a newspaper at the same time and found that more rewarding. I had never thought of journalism as a career but there I was being drawn towards it as a way of influencing public policy. Education prepared me for this as indeed for my future career in diplomacy. Education is necessary but not a sufficient ingredient for professional life. On-the-job learning and striving to absorb what one can is essential. In that sense, our learning is and should be a life long pursuit. You are the first woman to hold the position of Pakistan’s Representative to the US. Tell us about some of the challenges, which you have faced on your road to success, and the way you overcame those. Were you ever a victim of work politics? How did you manage? Any woman who has tried to break the glass ceiling will tell you it is never easy. One encounters all kinds of obstacles. But it is clear that to seek to be a winner one can’t be a whiner. My effort, or shall I say struggle to reach the top in the newspaper I worked for, did face challenges but in the end the owner saw and acknowledged my work and commitment and appointed me as the editor. I was thrilled of course and knew that I would still face some resistance from mostly the male members of the staff. It took time but I think when they saw I was thoroughly professional in my approach, they came to accept and I hope respect me. But I have to say; I also had extraordinary support from other colleagues, which helped me surmount the challenges. I guess the same applied when I was appointed as Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US. As I was the youngest ever to hold this post and an outsider, it took time to secure both the acceptance and cooperation I needed. But in the end the hard work paid off when others saw the seriousness and commitment I brought to the assignment. You have been the editor of The Muslim and the founding editor of The News. Tell us about your journalism experience and would you ever make a comeback as an editor? Journalism prepared me for what I did subsequently in my career in diplomacy and of course I enjoyed the eventful years I spent as an editor. But I think I have moved on and don’t see myself returning to run a newspaper. In what ways was your time different serving as Pakistan’s envoy to the US under Benazir Bhutto, Parvez Musharraf and Nawaz Sharif’s tenure? With which of these leaders did you share the best camaraderie? Each experience was different of course and I am grateful to all of them for reposing confidence in me. I think the difference recedes when placed in the context of the duty and obligations of the diplomatic posts I held. My service was to the country, promoting Pakistan’s interests, defending them and ensuring people heard Pakistan’s voice. You have been named by Time magazine as one of the 100 people in the world who will help to shape the 21st Century. In what ways do you personally think you have contributed to that change? That’s hard for me to assess. It is for others to do. But my effort in all my diplomatic assignments has been to try to change the narrative about Pakistan abroad because that has been embedded in stereotypes and mischaracterisations. Often Pakistan has been viewed through a single prism, which has deflected attention away from its rich culture and ancient civilisational roots, and its underlying strength and stability. We have had our challenges but it is the resilience of our people that has enabled us to defy all the odds and ensured that our country has forged ahead despite our problems. I have also tried to deploy cultural diplomacy as means to change the conversation about Pakistan, project our considerable soft power and build bridges with outsiders. I really see this as an effective tool and believe my background as a member of civil society and a non-bureaucrat has enabled me to draw from the best in our culture, our music, art, literature and films to project Pakistan abroad. ‘I never looked back. But it reinforced in my mind the belief that so much of life is luck, chance or accident. The rest is hard work!’ You are the proud recipient of the Crescent of Excellence and also hold two honorary fellowships and doctorates from distinguished British universities. What according to you has been your biggest achievement until now? I am humbled to have received the Hilal-e-Imtiaz from the president of Pakistan; one of the country’s highest civil awards. That it was bestowed on me for public service makes it even more humbling. It also says something about what I have tried to accomplish: serving the people of Pakistan. You have authored two best-selling books about Pakistan. Is there any other in the pipeline? What are you currently working on? I am too preoccupied with my work representing Pakistan at the United Nations to be writing a book at present. This is, by a long shot, the most exciting and rewarding assignment I have ever had and I am trying to live up to the expectations and responsibilities of this important role. Once I complete this assignment, there will be time to think of a book, possibly about my experience as a diplomat! What motivates you to excel no matter what? It is without a doubt a passion to serve my country. This is what has always motivated me and always will. What is your vision for Pakistan and what does it mean to be Pakistani for you? My vision for Pakistan is really contained in the book I edited called Pakistan – Beyond The Crisis State. In that, I urged the need to bring the country’s politics in sync with the economic, social and technological changes that have been sweeping the country, transforming the national landscape and creating a more ‘connected society.’ I also called for measures to resolve the paradox of Pakistan, of being a weak state but strong society. I believe that electoral and political reforms that foster greater and more active participation by Pakistan’s growing educated middle class and professionals will open up possibilities for the transformation of an increasingly dysfunctional, patronage dominated polity into one able to tap the resilience of its people and meet their needs. In addition, stable civil-military relations are necessary as well as a democracy that functions within the rule of law. We, at Daily Times, consider you one of our national heroes. Who are some of yours? I am humbled by that and am grateful to Daily Times for that honour. My heroes are my parents and our country’s founding fathers, all of whom have given us so much. My heroes are the people of Pakistan who have kept their faith with the country through its many trials and tribulations and deserve so much better than what they have got so far. Achievements MASTER OF ALL TRADES The legendary Maleeha Lodhi is a Pakistani diplomat, a military strategist, academician and political scientist who serves as Pakistan’s Representative to the United Nations, the first woman to hold the position. Previously, she served as Pakistan’s envoy to the Court of St James’s and twice as its ambassador to the US. ACE JOURNALIST In, Maleeha Lodhi became the editor of The Muslim, making her the first woman to edit a national newspaper in Asia. In 1990, she moved to become the founding editor of The News International. A RECOGNISED SCHOLAR Lodhi studied political science at the London School of Economics and after receiving her doctorate from the school in 1980, she remained there as a member of faculty teaching political sociology. Between 2008 and 2010, she served as a resident fellow at the Institute of Politics & the Kennedy School of Harvard University. She has been named as an international scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Centre. TRUSTED BY EVERY LEADERSHIP In 1994, she was appointed by Benazir Bhutto as Pakistan’s envoy to the United States, a position she retained until 1997. She was once again appointed to the same position in 1999 by president Pervez Musharraf until 2002 when she completed her tenure and moved on to be High Commissioner to the UK. In 2015, Lodhi was appointed by Prime Minister Sharif to serve as Permanent Representative & Ambassador of Pakistan to the UN in New York City, making her the first woman to hold the position. GLOBAL RECOGNITION In 1994, Lodhi was named by Time magazine as one of a 100 people in the world who will help to shape the 21st Century. Lodhi was also a member of the National Defence University’s Senate, and has been a member of the advisory council of IISS and continues to be a member of the Global Agenda Council of the World Economic Forum. Lodhi is the recipient of the Hilal-i-Imtiaz for Public Service and holds an honorary fellowship from the LSE since 2004 and received an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters from the London Metropolitan University in 2005. AN AVID WRITER Lodhi is the author of two books – Pakistan: the External Challenge and Pakistan’s Encounter with Democracy. Her latest was Pakistan: Beyond the Crisis State, edited by her in 2010. Published in Daily Times, August 17th 2017.