UNITED NATIONS, Aug 12: The last time United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visited Pakistan (in August of 2010), the havoc wrought by floods was on his mind, prompting him to term the floodwaters a “slow-moving tsunami”. But on the eve of his latest visit to the country he expressed concern over the killing and maiming of people by the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or drones.
In an interview with correspondents of Dawn and the APP news agency, Mr Ban underscored the need to strictly regulate use of the UAVs. “The UN really and strongly urges that all these UAVs should be strictly regulated and controlled under international law, including international humanitarian law.
“I have expressed concern on many occasions about the loss of life caused by the armed UAVs,” the UN secretary general said.
Without mentioning the United States, Mr Ban said the drones were now expected to be used in accordance with international laws. “The operations of UAVs are now guided and controlled by relevant international laws, including international humanitarian laws. We expect the operating countries… (to follow these) laws.”
Turning to the increasingly frayed relations between Pakistan and India, the UN chief reiterated his willingness to mediate between the two, provided they both agreed.
He expressed the hope that leaders of the two countries would continue to try to resolve the outstanding issues. “I would expect the Indian and Pakistani leadership to continue their dialogue, to create some confidence-building measures.
“There should be confidence built. I was encouraged to see that there was a Kashmiri bus service…. There is some increase in the lines of communications between the leaders. And this may be small, but you can expand this one,” he remarked.
POST-2014 AFGHANISTAN: Mr Ban acknowledged that the pullout from Afghanistan of the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) by the end of next year would pose a tough challenge not only to the country itself but also to the international community.
“First, the security situation. The ANSF (Afghan National Security Forces) should be responsible, on their own, for their security. And since there is a concern (about their capability), I’ve been urging the ISAF member states, including the US, to provide the necessary equipment and resources to help them strengthen their capacity.”
The presidential and parliamentary elections in Afghanistan also posed a challenge, Mr Ban said. “These elections should be conducted transparently, objectively and credibly. There should be no repetition of what happened in previous elections.”
The UN would be providing assistance to the Afghan government to hold fair elections. “Thirdly, the social and economic development. We should ensure that while more attention has been paid to security and counter-terrorism, the international community should now focus on socio-economic systems, like providing education. Afghanistan should really accelerate its efforts towards the MDGs and gender equality.”
On the issue of terrorism, the UN secretary general said the global community should join hands to stamp out the menace. “Pakistan or any other country cannot fight against terrorism alone. That is why the UN General Assembly conducted a global counter-terrorism strategy in December 2006, by consensus.
“We have established UN counter-terrorism centres. As you might have read the statement by the Saudi king presenting $100 million (for the initiative) — that’s a very generous support. This is a global effort.”
Mr Ban condemned the terrorist attacks taking place in Pakistan lately. “I strongly condemn these heinous terrorist attacks against civilians. This must stop. This must be stopped. “I am going to emphasise and work together with world leaders to strengthen the UN’s and international community’s capacity in fighting terrorism.”
Speaking about the agenda of his visit to Pakistan, he said he would urge the country to accelerate its efforts in achieving the Millennium Development Goals — in education, poverty eradication and gender equality.
“Also, we really hope to have closer and stronger cooperation, and the role of Pakistan in promoting peace and stability in Afghanistan. There are many other issues that I would like to discuss with the Pakistani leadership.”
Asked about the recent floods in Pakistan, Mr Ban said: “I am very sorry for all the damages and loss in the recent floods. My message is that the Pakistani government should invest more in disaster risk reduction.
“You may have seen some successful stories in some other countries… (The countries which) were successful in reducing very significantly the number of people affected, and the scope of damages caused by the flooding.
“So I hope that you should invest more (in disaster risk reduction).”
When asked about the conflict in Syria, Mr Ban remarked: “They must know that there is no military solution. Only a political solution can save millions of people from this tragic conflict.
“We are all working very hard to convene the second Geneva II Peace Conference, around the second week of September. That’s our target.”
The UN secretary general said the humanitarian crisis in Syria was deepening fast. “In the absence of peace and security, the humanitarian crisis (is worsening). The number of refugees is now reaching two million, it’s about 1.9m.
“The neighbouring countries are suffering. We are working very closely with the member states on how we can better deliver without obstructions, bureaucratic obstructions, without security concerns within all the areas of the Syrian territory and the region.”