LAHORE: Lashing out at the European Union ambassadors’ `undiplomatic’ statement wanting Pakistan to condemn Russia for Ukraine invasion, Prime Minister Imran Khan asked the bloc whether it wrote such a letter to India which violated UN Security Council resolutions and revoked the autonomous status of Occupied Kashmir.

“Have you ever acknowledged Pakistan’s support in war against terror which claimed 80,000 lives and caused other collateral damage,” he said while addressing a public meeting in Mailsi town of Vehari district on Sunday.

“Has anyone of you severed trade relations with India or objected to its unlawful actions,” Mr Khan asked, adding, “are we slaves and act according to your wishes”.

The last week’s press release by ambassadors of 23 countries had asked Pakistan “to join them in condemning Russia’s actions [in Ukraine] and to voice support for upholding the UN Charter and the founding principles of international law”.

Objecting to that press release, the Foreign Office had said: “We took note of that and in a subsequent meeting with a group of ambassadors, we expressed our concern about that because it was not the way diplomacy should be practised”.

Last week, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) passed a non-binding resolution, demanding the immediate withdrawal of all Russian troops from Ukraine. Out of five South Asian nations, only Nepal voted for the resolution while Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka decided to abstain.

Pakistan’s Ambassador Munir Akram had also asserted in the UN that Islamabad supported all efforts to restore peace in Ukraine. “We are advocating a ceasefire and negotiations. If we had joined the Ukraine resolution, we would have no political space for diplomacy between the two sides,” he had asserted.

The prime minister said Pakistan did not want any confrontation with any country and wanted to have good relations with all — Russia, the US, China and Europe. “Islamabad is not in any camp. We are neutral and make efforts that the Russia-Ukraine war should come to an end at the earliest as it is a great loss to the world,” he said.

He also made it clear that he was born in an independent country and would never bow before any force compromising its self-esteem.

Rejecting former Pakistani rulers’ stance of joining the Nato war in Afghanistan, Mr Khan said this country could achieve nothing and instead lost 80,000 precious lives, some 3.5 million people migrated, faced over $100 billion loss and the tribal areas went deserted. “If I were the prime minister at that time, I would have kept Pakistan out of any war in this region,” he said.

The premier chided the EU ambassadors for not even appreciating Pakistan’s role in the Nato war.

Recalling that some 400 drone attacks were reported in Pakistan during 2008-18, Mr Khan asked whether it happened anywhere in the world that a country, which was being supported by Pakistan, bombing Pakistan (through drones). “These drone attacks caused double damage because the victims were taking revenge within Pakistan believing that the attacks were being made with the permission of Pakistani rulers,” Mr Khan regretted.

“Not a single drone attack has been conducted in Pakistan during my tenure because I would have instructed my air force to shoot down any such plane,” the prime minister asserted.

Referring to former premier Nawaz Sharif and former President Asif Ali Zardari, the prime minister said these two thieves did not speak against those drone attacks because they wanted to protect their ill-gotten money stashed abroad.

PML-N reaction

Talking to a TV channel, PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal said diplomatic issues were not discussed in such a manner and in political meetings. “Khan was rather behaving like Maula Jutt (a popular Punjabi films character challenging his opponents alone),” he said.

He feared Pakistan might be paying a heavy price for Imran Khan’s undiplomatic approach.

Published in Dawn, March 7th, 2022

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