UNGA speech

Published September 29, 2019

PRIME MINISTER Imran Khan’s trip to New York has culminated on a high note after a hard-hitting speech at the United Nations General Assembly.

In the presence of world leaders, Mr Khan delivered a speech focused on four key areas: climate change, financial corruption, the perils of Islamophobia and lastly — and most importantly, since it was the main purpose of his visit — Kashmir.

On the first three issues, Mr Khan made some valid points although more informed input from his advisers could have yielded greater impact.

The prime minister spoke of Pakistan’s melting glaciers and the PTI’s tree plantation initiative. But at the UNGA, where the existential threat of climate change was a major theme, there was a need to underscore how Pakistan — a country that is seeking opportunities to grow its economy — needs the international community’s assistance to expand with the least possible damage to the environment.

His appeal to countries to assist Pakistan in combating the menace of money-laundering was also relevant, though at times the prime minister meandered into dharna-style politics which might have been lost on his international audience.

On Islamophobia, Mr Khan delivered a very pertinent message on the divisions a hate-filled mindset creates — indeed, it is a vital concern in a world that is increasingly seeing tragedies such as the one in Christchurch. Pursuing this theme on the international stage required more focused observations on the difference in perception between the Western and Islamic worlds.

But all shortcomings were compensated for by the subject Mr Khan saved for the last: the appalling situation in India-held Kashmir. He spoke with heartfelt conviction: “What I know of the West, they wouldn’t stand for eight million animals to be locked up. These are humans,” Mr Khan said as he spoke of the pitiable conditions that people are living under in occupied Kashmir.

“I have pictured myself locked up for 55 days … Would I want to let this humiliation continue? I would pick up a gun” are words that are likely to stay with those who listened.

Besides drawing attention to the plight of the Kashmiris, Mr Khan framed his plea to the international community by calling out the UN. “It is a test for the United Nations. You are the one who guaranteed the Kashmiris the right [of self-determination]. This is not the time for appeasement.”

Comparing Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s association with the Hindu nationalist RSS to Hitler and the Nazis, he asked how the world would respond if it were Jews and not Muslims under curfew — a scenario that might resonate more with an international community that for decades has rightly viewed the Holocaust as amongst the worst atrocities in history. In delivering an unequivocal, thunderous message to the world on Kashmir, Mr Khan did the right thing for millions of Kashmiris living under siege. For that, he must be given credit.

Published in Dawn, September 29th, 2019

Opinion

Editorial

IMF’s projections
Updated 18 Apr, 2024

IMF’s projections

The problems are well-known and the country is aware of what is needed to stabilise the economy; the challenge is follow-through and implementation.
Hepatitis crisis
18 Apr, 2024

Hepatitis crisis

THE sheer scale of the crisis is staggering. A new WHO report flags Pakistan as the country with the highest number...
Never-ending suffering
18 Apr, 2024

Never-ending suffering

OVER the weekend, the world witnessed an intense spectacle when Iran launched its drone-and-missile barrage against...
Saudi FM’s visit
Updated 17 Apr, 2024

Saudi FM’s visit

The government of Shehbaz Sharif will have to manage a delicate balancing act with Pakistan’s traditional Saudi allies and its Iranian neighbours.
Dharna inquiry
17 Apr, 2024

Dharna inquiry

THE Supreme Court-sanctioned inquiry into the infamous Faizabad dharna of 2017 has turned out to be a damp squib. A...
Future energy
17 Apr, 2024

Future energy

PRIME MINISTER Shehbaz Sharif’s recent directive to the energy sector to curtail Pakistan’s staggering $27bn oil...