Invoking Pontius Pilate After the Vote

Abdullah Hussain Haroon, Pakistan's representative to the UN, speaking at the Security Council on the resolution to end violence in Syria. The resolution failed to pass.

Of the many eloquent, impassioned speeches voiced by ambassadors in the Security Council right after Russia and China’s veto of the resolution aimed at ending the violence in Syria, Pakistan’s stood out for its professorial panache.

Abdullah Hussain Haroon, the ambassador of the UN from Pakistan, invoked Pontius Pilate’s washing of his hands over the crucifixion of Jesus to draw an analogy of the Security Council’s action over Syria, saying, “We cannot wash our hands of this.”

Haroon, who is heavy-set, white-bearded and speaks in a clipped Churchillian oratory, said on Feb. 4 in one of the longest speeches at the council that day, seven minutes, that the problem in Syria “has assumed dimensions which are not only regrettable but are condemnable.”

“I believe we accept too much too easily,” he went on. “Reminds me of 1,000 – 2,000 years ago, Pontius Pilate washing his hands and saying, I have nothing to do with this. And 2,000 years later, we still see humanity suffers that particular point.”

Haroon delved into the stance of Pakistan on the Syrian resolution and situation, saying that his country had “some serious concerns, mainly against killings and massacre of innocents,” but that on a point of principle, Pakistan was “not happy about any infringement of sovereignty or integrity of Syria.”

“There was a very spirited attempt  . . .  to take care of issues and concerns, and we’re thankful for that.”

Pakistan, which became a nonpermanent member of the council in January for a two-year term, voted yes on the resolution.

Going on about the resolution, Haroon said that “it became important to be able to end killings by asking both sides, and in fact forcing both sides, that it is not acceptable, and that was a strong moral point that the Arab League draft introduced into this.”

Master of Science in Humanitarian Studies at Fordham University

“Everyone,” he emphasized, “has to get into it to stop it!”

The veto as ‘heart-wrencher’

Don’t forget, he roared, “nothing succeeds anywhere in the world against a government without external help. That is a point of history which cannot be ignored.”

Toward the end, Haroon was using the first person in his speech, bemoaning the power of the veto by the permanent-five council members.

“I believe that even today our system has indeed let us down, but then we’re being very clear . . . that this aspect of veto is always a heart-wrencher, and both ways it guts itself and lets the other one for the moment, the other side, be beneficial. “

Continuing in this vein, he added, “ I think everyone should have the veto and then see how the world gets on. Perhaps we should all consider not using it whatsoever.”

As Haroon finished up, he reiterated that “we cannot wash our hands of this” and cited the Arab League plan as the best way forward.

“This matter,” he said, “should not be allowed to die.”

Master of Science in Humanitarian Studies at Fordham University

Additional resources:

Security Council Votes on Syria Resolution

New Members of the Security Council


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