Qureshi says world sees UN as a ‘talk shop’

Updated 23 Sep 2020

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Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi delivers a video message on UN's 75th anniversary. — Screengrab courtesy Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi delivers a video message on UN's 75th anniversary. — Screengrab courtesy Ministry of Foreign Affairs

UNITED NATIONS: For­e­ign Minister Shah Meh-m­ood Qureshi told the 75th General Assembly on Mon­day evening that the United Nations was now derided across the world as a “talk shop,” which could not imp­lement its own resolutions.

“The Jammu & Kashmir and Palestine disputes are the Organisation’s most gla­ring and long-standing failures,” said the top Pakistani diplomat while addressing delegates at the UN headquarters in New York.

But UN Secretary-Gen­eral António Guterres re-mi­nded the inaugural meeting that the UN was “only as strong as its members’ commitment to its ideals and each other”.

And Volkan Bozkir, the UNGA’s new president, said that an “upgraded” UN must respond to today’s challenges. “We must now follow up on the strong political will reflected in the declaration” adopted on Tuesday. “The time to act is now,” he said.

The declaration appr­ov­ed by 193 member nations at the mainly virtual commemoration pra­ised the UN as the only global organisation with the power to bring countries together and give “hope to so many people for a better world and [...] deliver the future we want”.

Mr Qureshi, however, noted that the “UN was hope born of the ashes of unmitigated suffering of war and misplaced notions of superiority of some over the others”.

But the very forces that led to the Second World War, racism and fascism, were now “taking the shape of rising xenophobia and Islamo­phobia,” he warned. People in Kashmir, “still await fulfillment of the commitment made to them by the United Nations to grant them their right to self-determination,” he added.

The United Nations, which is now celebrating its diamond jubilee, adopted the Kashmir resolution soon after it was founded in 1945.

Pakistan has consistently raised the Kashmir issue on different UN platforms over the years. China has also raised this issue in the UN Security Council (UNSC) three times since August 2018, when India illegally merged the disputed territory with the union.

Prime Minister Imran Khan and other Pakistani officials have been talking about it as well, on multiple forums, including at the United Nations General Assembly last year.

Islamabad argues that stripping the occupied territory of its special status violates UNSC resolutions that grant that the right of self-determination to the people of Kashmir.

But so far, the world body has been unable to resolve a dispute that has already caused several clashes between South Asia’s two nuclear powers, India and Pakistan.

Mr Qureshi told the meeting that the UN’s 75th anniversary was also an occasion to soberly introspect and to address the historic need “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war”.

He acknowledged that the UN had prevented wars, advanced arms control, facilitated decolonisation, and assisted in establishing a freer, more equal and rules-based world.

“But the euphoria must not unsight us of its failings and deficiencies. The whole is not bigger than the sum of its parts,” he added.

The foreign minister also underlined Pakistan’s role in the United Nations and vowed to continue playing this role.

Pakistan has been on the UN Security Council seven times, headed ECOSOC five times, and led the UN General Assembly and the G77. Pakistan has also contributed over 200,000 troops to 47 UN missions in 26 countries, losing 157 of its bravest in the process.

“Where other countries, subscribing to fascist ideologies, flout UN principles and claim privileged status at the high table only by virtue of size, strength and a misplaced sense of entitlement, Pakistan continues to bear without complaint, more than its fair share of burden,” he said.

Mr Qureshi pointed out that Pakistan has hosted one of the largest refugee populations in the world for decades.

“We, the peoples of the United Nations, must rise up to reverse the tides of despair, and prevent forebodings from turning into self-fulfilling prophecies,” he said. “In this noble endeavour, you will find Pakistan always by your side.”

Published in Dawn, September 23rd, 2020