In pre-taped address to U.N. General Assembly, Pakistan’s premier asks for global dialogue to tackle Islamophobia, seeks pressure on India to resolve Kashmir dispute
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday reiterated calls for the global community to remain engaged with the new Taliban government in Afghanistan, claiming that abandoning the war-torn state at this stage will boost the chances of it once again becoming a terror haven.
“There are two paths that we can take,” he said in a pre-taped address to the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly. Warning that even the U.N. had warned that almost 90 percent of Afghans would fall below the poverty line if Afghanistan were neglected right now, he said that a “huge humanitarian crisis” was looming. “This will have serious repercussions not just for the neighbors of Afghanistan but everywhere,” he said, stressing that a destabilized Afghanistan would result in the country once again becoming a safe haven for international terrorists.
“Therefore, there is only one way to go. We must strengthen and stabilize the current government, for the sake of the people of Afghanistan,” he said. Summarizing the pledges made by the Taliban since assuming control of Kabul—respect for human rights; an inclusive government; not allowing Afghan soil to be used by terrorists; general amnesty—he claimed that incentivizing the new government would prove a “win-win” for everyone.
“If the world can incentivize them to go this direction, then this 20-year presence of the coalition forces in Afghanistan would not be wasted,” he said, adding that this was a “critical” time for Afghanistan. “You cannot waste time. Help is needed there. Humanitarian assistance has to be given there immediately,” he said.
During his speech, the prime minister sought to deflect the increasing scapegoating of Pakistan for the current situation in Afghanistan. Stressing that after Afghanistan no other country had suffered as much as Pakistan for its role in the U.S.-led war on terror, Khan said: “80,000 Pakistanis died. $150 billion dollars were lost to our economy. There were 3.5 million internally displaced Pakistanis.”
Recalling that the Taliban movement had originated among the mujahideen that had been trained by Pakistan and the U.S. to fight the Soviet invasion of the 1980s, he noted that once the Soviets had been pushed back, Washington abandoned Afghanistan and left Pakistan to deal with 5 million Afghan refugees. “We were left with sectarian militant groups which were never existed before. But the worse cut of it was, that a year later Pakistan was sanctioned by the U.S. We felt used,” he said.
Following the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan after the events of 9/11, he said the same mujahideen that had once been described as “heroes” by the U.S. turned on Islamabad for its support of Washington. “We were called collaborators. They declared jihad on us,” he said, and claimed that Pakistanis in the country’s tribal areas had also sympathized with the Afghan Taliban “because of Pashtun nationalism.”
Khan recalled that in addition to the terrorism Pakistan experienced, the U.S. had also conducted 480 drone attacks on its soil. “And we all know that the drone attacks are not that precise. They cause more collateral damage than the militants they are targeting,” he said, adding that people whose relatives had been killed then sought revenge against Islamabad.
“Between 2004 and 2014, there were 50 different militant groups attacking the State of Pakistan,” he said and credited the Pakistan Army and the country’s intelligence agencies for ensuring the country could overcome the threat.
“The only reason we suffered so much was because we became an ally of the U.S.—of the coalition—in the war in Afghanistan,” he said, adding, “There were attacks being conducted from the Afghan soil into Pakistan.” Regretting that rather than appreciation, Pakistan had been subjected to blame for the current situation in Afghanistan, he said he had repeatedly advocated a political settlement.
“If today, the world needs to know why the Taliban are back in power, all it has to do is to do a deep analysis of why a 300,000 strong well equipped Afghan army … gave up without a fight,” he said.
Islamophobia and India
“Islamophobia is another pernicious phenomenon that we all need to collectively combat,” said the prime minister, noting that the association of terrorism with Islam “by some quarters” had increased the “tendency of right-wing, xenophobic and violent nationalists, extremists and terrorist groups to target Muslims.” Noting that the U.N. Global Counter Terrorism Strategy had recognized these emerging threats, he called on the secretary-general to convene a global dialogue to counter the rise of Islamophobia and promote interfaith harmony.
Accusing India of hosting the “worst and most pervasive form of Islamophobia,” he reiterated his condemnation of the Hindutva ideology propagated by the RSS-BJP regime of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “Mob lynching by cow vigilantes; frequent pogroms, such as the one in New Delhi last year; discriminatory citizenship laws to purge India of Muslims; and a campaign to destroy mosques across India and obliterate its Muslim heritage and history, are all part of this criminal enterprise,” he warned.
Slamming Delhi’s “final solution” for the Jammu and Kashmir dispute as rampant violation of human rights, he said Pakistan had issued a detailed dossier on the crimes perpetrated by Indian security forces in India-held Jammu and Kashmir. “This repression is accompanied by illegal efforts to change the demographic structure of the occupied territory, and transform it from a Muslim majority into a Muslim minority,” he said, stressing these actions violated the resolutions of the U.N. Security Council on Jammu and Kashmir.
“It is unfortunate, very unfortunate, that the world’s approach to violations of human rights lacks even-handedness, and even is selective. Geopolitical considerations, or corporate interests, commercial interests often compel major powers to overlook the transgressions of their ‘affiliated’ countries,” he said, adding that such double standards were the most glaring in the case of India. “The most recent example of Indian barbarity was the forcible snatching of the mortal remains of the great Kashmiri leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, from his family, denying him a proper Islamic funeral and burial, in accordance with his wishes and Muslim traditions,” he said.
The prime minister said that Pakistan desired peace with all its neighbors, including India, but this was only possible with a resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the wishes of the Kashmiri people. “The onus remains on India to create a conducive environment for meaningful and result-oriented engagement with Pakistan,” he said, adding that this required Delhi to reverse its unilateral measures of Aug. 5, 2019; halt its oppression and human rights violations against the people of Kashmir; and halt and reverse the demographic changes in the occupied territory.
At the launch of his speech, the prime minister said that the world was currently facing the triple challenges of COVID-19; an accompanying economic crisis; and the threats posed by climate change.
“The virus does not discriminate between nations and people. Nor do the catastrophes imposed by uncertain weather patterns,” he said. “The common threats faced by us today not only expose the fragility of the international system; they also underscore the oneness of humanity,” he said, adding that Pakistan had been thus far successful in containing the pandemic due to its targeted strategy that helped save lives and livelihoods.
On climate change, he noted that even though Pakistan’s contribution to global emissions was negligible, it was among the 10 most vulnerable countries to the effects of climate change. “Being fully aware of our global responsibilities, we have embarked upon game-changing environmental programs: reforesting Pakistan through our 10 billion tree tsunami; preserving natural habitats; switching to renewable energy; removing pollution from our cities; and adapting to the impacts of climate change,” he said.
The triple challenges, he said could be tackled with vaccine equity; through provision of adequate financing for developing countries; and the adoption of investment strategies aimed at reducing poverty, promoting job creation, building sustainable infrastructure, and bridging the digital divide.
Khan also reiterated his calls for action to curb the flow of illicit finances from developing countries to so-called “haven” destinations. “This organized theft and illegal transfer of assets has profound consequences for the developing nations. It depletes their already meager resources, accentuates the levels of poverty especially when laundered money puts pressure on the currency and leads to its devaluation,” he said.
“Retrieving the stolen assets from the developed countries is impossible for poor nations,” he said, noting that richer countries had no incentive to return “looted” wealth. “I foresee, in the not-too-distant future, a time will come when the rich countries will be forced to build walls to keep out economic migrants from these poor countries,” he warned.
“The General Assembly must take steps meaningfully to address this deeply disturbing, and morally repugnant, situation. Naming and shaming the ‘haven’ destinations and developing a comprehensive legal framework to halt and reverse the illicit financial flows are most critical actions to stop this grave economic injustice,” he advised.