Pakistan ‘remains neutral’ as UNGA censures Russia

Published March 3, 2022
NEW YORK: Ambassador Munir Akram, Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the UN, speaking at the emergency session on Ukraine.—INP
NEW YORK: Ambassador Munir Akram, Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the UN, speaking at the emergency session on Ukraine.—INP

UNITED NATIONS: The UN General Assembly voted on Wednesday to censure Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, demanded that Moscow stop fighting and urged it to immediately withdraw its military forces.

However, in a carefully-worded statement on the Ukrainian crisis, delivered in the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on Wednesday, Pakistan emphasised the need to protect territorial integrity of a state without threatening the national interests of another.

Although an overwhelming majority, 141, voted for the resolution, it remains non-binding as a resolution has to be approved by the UN Security Council to be binding.

Besides Russia, four other countries also voted against the resolution while 35 states, including Pakistan, abstained.

Munir Akram says Islamabad ‘most concerned’ over safety of citizens, students still in Ukraine

On the first two days of this emergency session on Ukraine, Pakistan watched carefully as state after state blamed Russia for invading Ukraine and deman­ded immediate withdrawal of all Russian troops from the occupied territory.

“Pakistan is committed to the fundamental principles of the UN Charter: self-determination of peoples, non-use or threat of use of force, sovereignty and territorial integrity of States, and pacific settlement of disputes,” Pakistan’s UN Ambassador Munir Akram told the emergency session.

“Equally, Pakistan upholds the principle of equal and indivisible security for all. These principles must be consistently and universally respected.”

Besides Russia, four other countries also voted against the resolution while 35 states, including Pakistan, abstained.

Three other South Asian nations, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, abstained, although Nepal voted for the US-backed resolution.

China, a major world power and one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, also abstained.

This would allay Pakistan’s fear of being isolated on an issue that has forced Islamabad not to vote with the US as it seeks to improve its economic ties with Russia.

The pressure on Pakistan, and other UN members who were avoiding taking sides on this delicate issue, increased on Tuesday when more than 100 diplomats from 40 nations walked out during Russia’s foreign minister speech at the Human Rights Council.

Also on Tuesday, Pakistan Foreign Office received a highly unusual letter from top diplomats of 22 countries, urging Islamabad to support a UNGA resolution condemning Russia’s aggression and demanding its immediate withdrawal.

The signatories included EU member states and major non-European powers, such as Australia, Canada and Japan.

Earlier on Thursday, Prime Minister Imran Khan met with his top aides in Islamabad to discuss the evolving situation in Ukraine and Pakistan’s position on the conflict.

The meeting was attended by Planning Minister Asad Umar, Energy Minister Hammad Azhar, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, and the three services chiefs and Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood briefed the participants on the Ukraine conflict.

The information minister told Dawn after the meeting that the sitting had approved the text of the speech to be delivered by Pakistan’s permanent representative.

He said it was decided that Pakistan would reiterate its stance opposing aggression, and emphasizing diplomacy for resolution of conflicts. Pakistan, he said, it was decided would abstain during the voting on the resolution for stopping Russia aggression.

The statement pointed out that in his latest comments on the issue, Prime Minister Imran Khan had regretted the situation between Russia and Ukraine, hoping that diplomacy could avert military conflict.

“We have since repeatedly stressed the need for de-escalation, renewed negotiations, sustained dialogue, and continuous diplomacy,” Ambassador Akram said.

“All efforts must be made to avoid further escalation of violence and loss of life as well as military, political and economic tensions, which can pose an unprecedented threat to international peace and security and global economic stability.

“We hope the talks initiated between representatives of the Russian Federation and Ukraine will succeed in bringing about a cessation of hostilities and normalisation of the situation,” he said.

“A diplomatic solution in accordance with relevant multilateral agreements, international law, and provisions of the UN Charter is indispensable.”

Ambassador Akram pointed out that “Pakistan also supports all efforts to provide humanitarian relief to civilians in the affected areas”.

The Pakistan government, he said, was most concerned about the safety and welfare of Pakistani citizens and students in Ukraine, noting that most of them had been evacuated. “Those remaining will be evacuated soonest,” said Mr Akram, adding that Pakistan appreciated the cooperation of the Ukrainian authorities as well as the Polish, Romanian and Hungarian governments in this context.

Published in Dawn, March 3rd, 2022

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