Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar addressed the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York on Friday where he stressed the need for countering all terrorists without discrimination, including “the rising threat posed by far-right extremist and fascist groups such as Hindutva-inspired extremists, threatening genocide against India’s Muslims and Christians alike”. He said that Pakistan wants peaceful relations with all its neighbours and also talked about Kashmir being the key to peace between India and Pakistan. He highlighted how India has imposed extended lockdowns and curfews, jailed genuine Kashmiri leaders, and resorted to extrajudicial killings of innocent Kashmiris in fake encounters. PM Kakar said Pakistan advocates “continued humanitarian assistance to a destitute Afghan population in which Afghan girls and women are the most vulnerable as well as the revival of the Afghan economy and implementation of the connectivity projects with Central Asia” and at the same time he raised the issue of cross-border terrorism that Pakistan is taking necessary measures to end it. Kakar highlighted Islamophobia, multilateralism and fulfilment of climate change commitments, among other things.
PM Kakar’s speech covered all important aspects that Pakistan has been raising at all international forums over the years. These issues need to be brought up consistently because they are of great importance, especially when it comes to the issue of Hindutva extremism in India, the atrocities being committed by India in Occupied Kashmir, Islamophobia in the world, and climate change commitments by the world. That the world is now paying attention to Indian terrorism after a Sikh leader’s targeted murder in Canada vindicates Pakistan’s stance about the ruthlessness of the Indian state. It is also of great importance that Kakar talked about cross-border terrorism in Afghanistan’s context because Pakistan has bravely fought terrorism for almost two decades now and the comeback of terrorism in the country ever since the fall of Kabul two years ago is quite worrisome for the government. Apart from this, climate change is an issue that affects Pakistan directly. It is necessary to remind the world of its commitments to climate change because we are not responsible for carbon emissions, yet we are one of the worst affected because of other countries. On his visit to New York, Kakar was also asked by journalists about alleged human rights violations and arrests of women political prisoners, and how Pakistanis based in the US were contacting US congressmen. Kakar’s pointed reply that Pakistan is not accountable to any government or to any congressman can hardly be an encouraging sign for those wanting more transparency in the current political cases being pursued by the state.
While PM Kakar ticked the boxes as far as his speech at the UN goes, his visit has rightly elicited criticism by people who wonder why a caretaker prime minister of a country facing one of its worst economic crises thought it fit to go to the UNGA. Under the circumstances when people are finding it difficult to make ends meet, the PM and his entourage visiting the US and not addressing the UNGA through video link – which is perfectly acceptable – does not make for any good optics. He is the first Pakistani caretaker PM to address the UNGA. That in itself should not be taken as a positive. Our caretakers seem to be doing everything to forget that they are here for a short time. Elections in Pakistan can’t come soon enough.