KARACHI: The United Nations has said that its goodwill ambassadors in their personal capacity retain the right to speak about issues that interest or concern them.

The statement came from Stephane Dujarric, the spokesperson for Secretary General Antonio Guterres, in the light of pro-war comments made by United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) Goodwill Ambassador and Indian actor Priyanka Chopra Jonas in February that were highlighted recently by an activist.

On Wednesday, Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari had written to the Unicef head, asking her to remove Ms Chopra as its goodwill ambassador over her pro-war comments.

The minister’s move came days after Ms Chopra was accosted at an event in the United States by Pakistani-American activist Ayesha Malik over a tweet posted by the actor earlier this year in favour of the Indian army.

Pakistan’s minister had urged Unicef to de-notify Priyanka as its ambassador

Answering a reporter’s question regarding the UN’s stance on Ms Chopra’s statements in Thursday’s briefing, Mr Dujarric said: “Well I mean I can tell you that for any goodwill ambassador whether it’s Miss Chopra or anyone else, we expect them to adhere to impartial positions when they speak on behalf of Unicef or any other organisation.”

However, he added that when these ambassadors speak in their personal capacity they retain the right to speak about issues of interest or concern to them.

“Their personal views however do not reflect the views of the agency with which they may be affiliated with,” Mr Dujarric clarified.

In her letter to Unicef executive director Henrietta H. Fore, Ms Mazari had pointed to the ongoing crisis in India-held Kashmir, saying it was a result of Prime Minister Narendra Modi government’s violation of all international conventions that India was a signatory to, along with the UN Security Council resolutions.

She pointed out that Ms Chopra — who became global Unicef goodwill ambassador in 2016 — had publicly endorsed this position of the Indian government and also allegedly supported the veiled nuclear threat issued to Pakistan by the Indian defence minister.

“All this goes completely against the principles of peace and goodwill that Ms Chopra is supposed to uphold as a UN goodwill ambassador for peace,” Ms Mazari said, adding that the actor’s jingoism and support for war undermined the credibility of her position as a UN representative.

“Unless she is removed immediately, the very idea of a UN goodwill ambassador for peace becomes a mockery globally,” she had said, urging the Unicef chief to immediately de-notify Ms Chopra.

The actor has garnered widespread criticism on social media over her response to activist Malik’s question at an event in Los Angeles earlier this month.

Ms Malik had accused the actress of being a “hypocrite” and “encouraging nuclear war against Pakistan” by tweeting in favour of the Indian army in February, when Pakistan and India came to the brink of war in the wake of the Pulwama attack in held Kashmir.

Published in Dawn, August 24th, 2019