Adnan Pachachi: Iraqi statesman had a keen sense of justice, say family

The politician who devoted himself to the UAE and turned down the presidency of his country of birth because he could not engage with the ruling class

Adnan Pachachi advises Sheikh Zayed in the 1970.
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Former Iraqi statesman Adnan Pachachi had an unshakable belief in the young people of his country, his family said as thousands mourned his loss in a period of unrest.

Iraqis viewed Pachachi, who had lived in the UAE since 1968, as a noble politician who worked tirelessly for regional peace and stability.

His death on Sunday came as months of anti-government protests in which 320 people have been killed fuelled political uncertainty and left Iraq's future unclear.

Pachachi presented himself as a patrician figure of independent and secular views that transcended the ethnic and religious factions of Iraq that many feared could rip the country apart in the aftermath of war. Many saw his maturity, patriotism and selfless motives as a rallying point for Iraqis.

In 2006, he wrote a letter addressed to Iraq's young people, telling them that they "have the capability and understanding to actually make change, make a society that is free of sectarianism and is democratic", his daughter Maysoon Pachachi told The National.

"What he was saying to them was the future is in their hands – forget about the people who are in politics; we've all failed you," she said.

Pachachi was the Iraqi foreign minister and a representative to the United Nations before moving into exile in 1971, serving as close adviser to the Founding Father, Sheikh Zayed.

"One of the main things we learnt from him was his sense of curiosity for the world. He had a certain kind of egalitarianism," Ms Pachachi said.

He believed that everybody needed to be given the chance to develop

“He believed that everybody needed to be given the chance to develop.”

He instilled "a sense of justice" among his family, she said, and "he couldn't bear injustice – he didn't like violence or hypocrites".

Pachachi was eager to help the rebirth of his country after the US-led invasion of 2003.

The Iraqi statesman grew up in an environment of public service that pushed him to take a leap of faith in Iraq after the removal of Saddam Hussein.

His father and father-in-law were prime ministers under the monarchy after Iraq’s independence from the UK.

"In 2003, he jumped at the opportunity to help rebuild his country even though he was 80 at the time," a close relative of Pachachi told The National.

His family were concerned about his return to Baghdad in 2003.

But Pachachi was adamant that “he doesn’t have the luxury of waiting around another 20 years to see how things turn out to actually become involved”, Ms Pachachi said.

He told his daughter: "I have something to give and I have the whole experience of the UAE and before that at the UN and as foreign minister of Iraq.

"I have all this experience and international contacts – I have something to ­contribute."

Pachachi became a member of the Iraqi Governing Council that served as the provisional government of Iraq from July 2003 to June 2004.

The 25-member council cast aside its deep communal and religious differences and signed the country's first ­interim constitution in March 2004.

It was hailed as enshrining basic freedoms and the protection of human rights in Iraq after decades of dictatorship.

Pachachi had been a contender to become president but turned down the role because he felt he could not engage with the country's ruling class at the time.

 "I was of the opinion that he should be the president because what Iraq needed was both international recognition and Arab acceptance and both would have helped with Pachachi as president," said Fareed Yasseen, the Iraqi ambassador to the US.

The day the government was announced, Lakhdar Brahimi, who was the UN's special representative in Iraq, called Pachachi to offer him the job but was rebuffed, Mr Yasseen told The National.

He said at the time that “someday when my obituary is written they’ll say I’m the guy that turned down the presidency of Iraq”.

He served in Iraq for eight years and “he really tried his best” but was “increasingly dispirited and disappointed by the level of corruption and sectarianism he saw which he couldn’t understand and participate in”, Ms Pachachi said.

Pachachi was a true idealist and a genuine liberal, Feisal Al Istrabadi, Iraq's former ambassador to the UN and one of the principal legal drafters of the Iraqi interim constitution said.

"He believed in a modern conception of the state, one in which the relationship of the individual and the state was based upon citizenship, not upon ethnic or confessional identity," Mr Al Istrabadi told The National.

His beliefs cost him the presidency because of opposition from the ethno-confessional parties, he said.

"They do not know it, but the protesters in Iraq’s cities today are demonstrating for Pachachi’s vision of a non-sectarian Iraq. In this sense, he was ahead of his time," Mr Istrabadi said.

For much of his time in exile, Pachachi served as a foreign affairs adviser to the UAE.

Abu Dhabi “became his home” because he couldn’t go back to Baghdad for a very long time, Ms Pachachi said.

"He came in the early 1970s and he saw the extraordinary transformation that happened in this place, so I think for him he was very proud to be able to contribute and be a part of it."

Pachachi played a vital role in establishing the foundations of Sheikh Zayed's early foreign policy and on December 10, 1971, he helped hoist the UAE flag for the first time at the UN headquarters in New York.

"He saw Sheikh Zayed as a man of vision who had at the very heart of him a sense of serving his people, which was something that my father related to very much," she said.

Working with a small group, mostly Iraqi compatriots, Pachachi also assisted in setting up the Federal National Council.

“His dream was to transfer the success of what he did in the UAE to Iraq,” a close relative of Pachachi said.

"He would do anything to help others and had faith in the youth."