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Pakistan won’t be anyone’s scapegoat, PM tells UN

September 23, 2017
NEW YORK: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi addresses the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly at the UN headquarters on Thursday.—AFP
NEW YORK: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi addresses the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly at the UN headquarters on Thursday.—AFP

UNITED NATIONS: In his first address to the UN General Assembly on Thursday, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi highlighted Kashmir as a key dispute, refused to be a ‘scapegoat’ for Afghanistan and reminded the world that it was not Pakistan that started a nuclear race in South Asia.

Without naming any nation, the prime minister also condemned the recent trend of using military force for resolving disputes. “Unfortunately, ... in recent years some countries have displayed a growing proclivity to resort to unilateral force and intervention against other states,” he said. “Coercion and threats have emerged again as the main currency in the management of inter-state disputes and differences.”

Mr Abbasi did not explicitly criticise US President Donald Trump’s strategy for South Asia, introduced in the latter’s Aug 21 address to his nation, but rejected his suggestion that Pakistan was responsible for the insurgency in Afghanistan.

In a defiant speech, Abbasi demands a UN special envoy probe Indian atrocities in Kashmir

“Having suffered and sacrificed so much due to our role in the global counterterrorism campaign, it is especially galling for Pakistan to be blamed for the military or political stalemate in Afghanistan,” he said. “We are not prepared to be anyone’s scapegoat.”

Mr Trump had accused Pakistan of allowing terrorist safe havens inside its territory, which, he indicated, were responsible for continued violence in Afghanistan.

“What Pakistan is not prepared to do is to fight the Afghan war on Pakistan’s soil. Nor can we endorse any failed strategy that will prolong and intensify the suffering of the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan and other regional countries,” Mr Abbasi said.

Pakistan, he said, lost 27,000 lives since the launch of the US war on terror and that’s why it was more interested in restoring peace and stability in Afghanistan than any other nation.

He used the international platform to underline his country’s complaint that while some nations talked about the presence of terrorist sanctuaries in Pakistan, they ignored the safe havens in Afghanistan.

The priority should be to eliminate all extremists, including from the militant Islamic State (IS) group, Al Qaeda and others who use their bases in Afghanistan to attack Pakistan, he said. Ultimately, only a political solution with the Taliban would work, he emphasised. “Neither Kabul and the Coalition, nor the Afghan Taliban, can impose a military solution on each other.”

Mr Abbasi said Pakistan had fought the war against terrorism using its own resources with economic losses estimated at over $120 billion.“Yet, we remain committed to fully implementing our National Action Plan against terrorism and extremism.”

He pointed out Taliban ‘safe havens’ were not in Pakistan “but in the large tracts of territory controlled by the Taliban in Afghanistan”.

In an indirect reference to US allegations of cross-border attacks, he said those attacks were mostly launched into Pakistan from bases in Afghanistan. “To end all cross-border attacks we ask the Afghan government and the Coalition to support and complement Pakistan’s ongoing efforts to strengthen border control and monitor all movement across it.”

He said Pakistan believed that the urgent goals in Afghanistan should include concerted action to eliminate the presence in Afghanistan of Daesh [IS], Al Qaeda and their affiliates, including the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan and Jamaatul Ahrar, which was recently declared a terrorist organisation by the Security Council.

He suggested promotion of negotiations between Kabul and the Afghan Taliban — in the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) or any trilateral format — to evolve a peaceful settlement in Afghanistan.

Kashmir dispute

Besides Afghanistan, the prime minister devoted a big chunk of his speech to highlighting Indian atrocities in held Kashmir and emphasised the need for resolving the 70-year-old dispute.

He said India was using “massive and indiscriminate force” in held Kashmir, and demanded an international investigation and the appointment of a UN special envoy to probe Indian atrocities.

Earlier in the day, the prime minister gave a 250-page dossier on Indian actions in held Kashmir to UN Secretary General and asked for the appointment of a special envoy to probe the matter.

In his speech, he warned against the escalating Indian military actions along the Line of Control.

“Pakistan has acted with restraint. But if India does venture across the LoC, or acts upon its doctrine of limited war against Pakistan, it will evoke a strong and matching response,” he said.

He also explained Pakistan’s nuclear policy, reminding the world that Islamabad did not introduce nuclear weapons to the region, as India tested its devices first.

?“Confronted by a hostile and increasingly militarized neighbour, Pakistan has been obliged to maintain the capability for credible deterrence. My country developed nuclear weapons only when these were introduced in our region by this neighbour,” he said.

“Our strategic assets are vital to deter oft-threatened aggression. They are tightly and effectively controlled, as has been widely acknowledged by experts.”

Mr Abbasi also stressed the need for Pakistan’s acceptance into the nuclear club, which seems willing to accept India. “The world community would be well served by enabling Pakistan to join global non-proliferation arrangements, such as the Nuclear Suppliers Group on a non-discriminatory basis.”

He was referring to an Indian strategic doctrine of a limited military response on Pakistan that is intended to stop short of triggering a nuclear reprisal. Pakistan developed its capability of “credible deterrence” to counter the Indian strategy.

Human rights violations by India in India-held Kashmir clearly constitute war crimes and violate the Geneva Conventions, Mr Abbasi said, adding that India refused to implement the Security Council resolution on Kashmir that mandates a UN-supervised plebiscite for the people of Jammu and Kashmir “to freely decide their destiny”.

“India’s deployment of 700,000 troops in IHK to suppress Kashmiri movement is the most intense foreign military occupation in recent history,” he said.

Mr Abbasi said Pakistan urged the international community to call on India to halt pellet gun attacks on unarmed Kashmiris, stop “use of rape as instrument of state policy”, end media blackouts, rescind its “draconian emergency laws”, and free all Kashmiri political leaders.

“We ask that the United Nations secretary general and the High Commissioner for Human Rights send an inquiry commission to occupied Kashmir.”

The speech made it clear that instead of caving in under pressure and accept the US pressure to recognise Indi’s larger role in Afghanistan, Pakistan is opting for defiance by hardening its stance on Kashmir and other issues involving India.

Mr Abbasi also talked about “the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya” Muslims in Myanmar which he said was “not just an affront to all norms of humanity but also challenges our collective conscience”.

Published in Dawn, September 23rd, 2017