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September 23, 2017

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India must stop war crimes in IHK: Abbasi

India must stop war crimes in IHK: Abbasi

UNITED NATIONS: Pakistan has urged the UN Secretary General (UNSG) and the High Commissioner for Human Rights (HR) to send an inquiry commission to Indian Held Kashmir (IHK) to verify the nature and extent of human rights violations, secure punishment of those responsible and provide justice and relief to the victims.

Addressing the 72nd United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) here on Thursday, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi urged the world body that the international community must act decisively to prevent the situation from a dangerous escalation. 

In his maiden appearance in the UN, Abbasi suggested that as India was unwilling to resume the peace process with Pakistan, “we call on the Security Council (SC) to fulfill its obligation to secure the implementation of its own resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir.”

“To this end, the UN Secretary-General should appoint a special envoy on Kashmir. His mandate should flow from the longstanding but unimplemented resolutions of the SC,” he added.

Calling for expeditious steps towards the implementation of UNSC resolutions on Kashmir with the appointment of a special envoy to promote a just and peaceful settlement of the festering dispute that has led to heightened tensions between Pakistan and India, Abbasi expressed grave concern over the continuing persecution of unarmed Kashmiri people, struggling for their right to self-determination.

He said India had responded with massive and indiscriminate force to suppress Kashmiris, shooting indiscriminately at children, women and youth. “Hundreds of innocent Kashmiris have been killed or injured. Shotgun pellets have blinded and maimed thousands of Kashmiris, including children. These and other brutalities clearly constitute war crimes and violate the Geneva conventions.”

In his wide-ranging 22-minute address choreographed meticulously, the prime minister also spoke about Pakistan’s desire for peace in war-torn Afghanistan, its counter-terrorism efforts and sacrifices, the Middle East situation, UN reforms, climate change and the country’s economic stability and consolidation of democracy.

He also made it a point to speak of Islamabad’s desire for peace with its neighbours, saying Pakistan remained open to resuming a comprehensive dialogue with India to address all outstanding issues, especially Kashmir, and discuss measures to maintain peace and security.

“This dialogue must be accompanied by an end to India’s campaign of subversion and state-sponsored terrorism against Pakistan, including from across our western border.” Dealing with the situation in Kashmir, the premier told high echelon delegates from around the world that India had deployed nearly 700,000 troops in the IHK to suppress the legitimate struggle of Kashmiris to exercise their right to self-determination. 

That was the most intense foreign military occupation in recent history, he said.  He said today the Kashmiri people were waging a heroic and popular struggle to rid themselves of India’s oppressive rule.

He also urged the international community to call on India to halt pellet gun attacks and other violence against unarmed demonstrators; stop the use of rape as an instrument of state policy; end media blackouts; rescind its draconian emergency laws; and free all Kashmiri political leaders.

He reminded the world body that India frequently violated ceasefire along the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir to divert world’s attention from its brutalities.

“Despite over 600 violations since January this year Pakistan had acted with restraint. But if India does venture across the LoC, or acts upon its doctrine of “limited” war against Pakistan (Cold Start), it will evoke a strong and matching response,” he warned.

“The Kashmir dispute should be resolved justly, peacefully and expeditiously,” he said.  Spelling out Pakistan’s stance in clear terms, Prime Minister Abbasi said his country was not prepared to fight the Afghan war on its soil.

“Nor can we endorse any failed strategy that will prolong and intensify the suffering of the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and other regional countries.”  Pakistan, he said, had suffered and sacrificed much due to its role in the global counter-terrorism campaign. 

“It is especially galling for Pakistan to be blamed for the military or political stalemate in Afghanistan,” he said.  “We are not prepared to be anyone’s scapegoat. Taliban ‘safe havens’ are located not in Pakistan but in the large tracts of territory controlled by the Taliban in Afghanistan. Cross-border attacks did occur, but those were mostly conducted by anti-Pakistan terrorists from the “safe havens” across the border.

“To end all cross-border attacks we ask the Afghan government and the coalition to support and complement Pakistan’s ongoing efforts to strengthen border controls and monitor all movement across it.”

Abbasi said the people of two countries had suffered the most from four decades of foreign intervention and civil wars in Afghanistan, blighting Pakistan with the flow of extremists and terrorists, guns and drugs and millions of refugees. 

“They have set back our economic development by decades. Even today, Pakistan is host to over 3 million Afghan refugees,” he said. The Prime Minister said, ”No one desires peace in Afghanistan more than Pakistan.” 

However, after 16 years of war in Afghanistan, it was clear that peace would not be restored by the continuing resort to military force.  “Neither Kabul and the coalition, nor the Afghan Taliban, can impose a military solution on each other.” 

He said the international community, as expressed in several UN resolutions, had concluded that peace could be restored in Afghanistan only through a negotiated settlement.  Pakistan believes that the urgent and realistic goals in Afghanistan should include concerted action to eliminate the presence in Afghanistan of Daesh, al-Qaeda and their affiliates, including the TTP and Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, which was recently declared a terrorist organization by the UNSC. 

He suggested promotion of negotiations between Kabul and the Afghan Taliban, in the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) or any trilateral format, to evolve a peaceful settlement in Afghanistan.

The two steps, he added, offered the most realistic prospect of restoring peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region. Prime Minister Abbasi said that Pakistan’s counter-terrorism credentials could not be questioned. 

After 9/11 it was Pakistani efforts that enabled the decimation of al-Qaeda. Pakistan’s military campaigns have succeeded in clearing our tribal areas of almost all militant groups. 

“We took the war to the terrorists. We have paid a heavy price,” Abbasi said and pointed out that over 27,000 Pakistanis, including 6,500 military and law enforcement personnel, had been martyred by the terrorists while 50,000 injured, including 15,000 army personnel, many of whom lost their limbs. 

He said Pakistan had fought the war against terror from its own resources with economic losses estimated at over $120 billion. 

“Yet, we remain committed to fully implementing our National Action Plan (NAP) against terrorism and extremism.”

Prime Minister Abbasi said defeating terrorist violence was vital to realise its overriding priority of rapid economic and social development.  He called for addressing the global phenomenon of terrorism comprehensively and identified two major gaps in the global counter-terrorism strategy that have led in a failure to address the issue. 

“This is an instrument of choice of the agents of chaos and aspiring hegemons,” he added. He also called for dealing with the root causes of terrorism.

“Those were not only poverty and ignorance,” he said, adding that it also emanated from an extreme response to real or perceived political and other grievances, including foreign intervention, oppression and injustice. “Unless such root causes are addressed, it will be difficult to counter the twisted narrative of terrorist groups.” 

Shahid Abbasi said Pakistan, confronted by a hostile and increasingly militarized neighbour, had been obliged to maintain the capability for credible deterrence. 

Pakistan, he said, had developed its nuclear weapons only when those were introduced in the region by its neighbour. 

“Our strategic assets are vital to deter oft-threatened aggression. They are tightly and effectively controlled, as has been widely acknowledged by experts.” 

The world community would be well served by enabling Pakistan to join global non-proliferation arrangements, such as the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) on a non-discriminatory basis. 

He said the renewed East-West tensions might engulf Europe in another Cold War, while peace and prosperity in Asia was threatened by emerging big powers’ friction and rising tensions in South, East and West Asia. 

The Middle East was wrecked by war and violence, in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and elsewhere. Although Daesh appears to have weakened in Iraq and Syria, terrorist violence has spread and intensified across the Middle East and Africa and other parts of the world, he added. 

“There is no end in sight to the tragedy of Palestine,” he said and pointed out that Israel’s prolonged occupation and expansion of illegal settlements might lead to renewed and wider violence in the Holy Land.

Rising racism and religious hatred – manifested in xenophobia and Islamophobia – was erecting physical walls and psychological barriers between nations and peoples even as world became increasingly interdependent. 

“The ethnic cleansing of Rohingyas is not just an affront to all norms of humanity but also challenges our collective conscience,” he said. While the pillars of world order were being eroded, he said the imperative of international cooperation, to address poverty, disease, climate change, nuclear proliferation, terrorism and forced displacement was intensifying.

Abbasi said Pakistan welcomed the efforts launched by SG Antonio Guterres to revitalise the UN’s capabilities in peace and security, development and management.

“We are also committed to reform that transforms the UNSC into a more representative, democratic and accountable body rather than an expanded club of the powerful and the privileged.”

He said Pakistan had consistently been one of the world’s top troop contributors to UN peacekeeping.

“We will remain on the front-lines of peacekeeping and continue to offer professional and well-trained personnel to the United Nations, despite our own security challenges,” he added. 

The prime minister termed climate change a new and existential threat to mankind’s future. He said the multiplying extreme climate events were global and indiscriminate.

As one of the most vulnerable states to climate change, Pakistan believed that it was in its own collective interest to pursue and realise the goals of the Paris Agreement and build a new and greener model for growth and development, he added.

He said growth and development were the primary objectives of the developing countries and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDG) represented the most ambitious development agenda in history. 

He said the vision of shared growth, spelt out in Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road initiative, offered a solid path to prosperity and a model of South-South cooperation worthy of emulation. 

Prime Minister Abbasi shared with the world body that Pakistan’s economy had recorded a remarkable revival in the past four years. He said the CPEC would further contribute to economic upsurge.

He expressed optimism that it would expand exponentially as the Pakistan-China partnership extended beyond energy and transportation to many other sectors.

“Pakistan’s integration into the Eurasian Belt and Road network will provide a firm foundation for Pakistan’s rapid economic development.”

With 207 million youthful population, he said, Pakistan was confident that an economic strategy anchored on rising incomes, consumption and production would propel it towards greater prosperity.

“To achieve these priority goals for our people, Pakistan seeks to build peace within our country and security around our borders,” he said.

“We seek good relations with all states on the basis of sovereign equality. We will respond positively to all offers of friendship and cooperation,” he remarked.

Later addressing a hurriedly called news conference, Prime Minister Abbasi said his visit had achieved its objective of conveying Pakistan’s strong stance against terrorism as the international community was now showing its understanding and appreciation of the country’s commitment and its sacrifices. 

He said in his interaction with the US leaders, he made some headway in putting the relations back on track. 

He went through a hectic schedule in New York and met President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, British Prime Minister Theresa May and several other world leaders on the margins. 

The prime minister had 27 engagements, including several important bilateral meetings with different heads of governments. He said the National Security Committee (NSC) had already given a strong response on the new US strategy on South Asia and Afghanistan.

The prime minister, who was flanked by Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif and Pakistan's permanent representative (PR) to the UN Ambassador Dr. Maleeha Lodhi, said he looks forward to the visit of a US delegation to Pakistan next month. 

The announcement of the delegation was made after Abbasi-Pence meeting. 

He said Pakistan's stance was clear that it wants to fight terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. "We are partners in the war against terrorism and the international community has accepted it." 

To a query, Khawaja Muhammad Asif said he has had a meeting with the National Security Advisor of Afghanistan and several issues of mutual concern were taken up. Both the sides agreed to carry forward the talks, and that he has been invited to visit Kabul. 

Prime Minister Abbasi said his bilateral meeting with President Ashraf Ghani could not materialise due to scheduling difficulties. Responding to a question, the prime minister said peace could not be brought to Afghanistan by war. 

Afghans need to sit down together and resolve their own issues.  “Those with whom we are fighting have their leadership in Afghanistan. Nobody wants peace more than us in Afghanistan.” The prime minister said the Taliban were operating in Afghanistan, and Pakistan had nothing to do with them. 

Responding to a question, the foreign minister said he had an informal chat with the Indian Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj in a meeting.  He said he enquired after her and she said she was feeling better after her kidney transplant surgery.

Referring to his demand for appointment of a Special Envoy on Kashmir at the UN General Assembly, the prime minister said the world body would look into it. 

He said the dossier presented had information about the atrocities being perpetrated against the Kashmiris and expressed the hope that Pakistan would get a positive response. 

Turning to the domestic politics, the prime minister said his government had lots of respect for the Supreme Court and had only one stance that the courts should equally treat everyone. 

To a question the prime minister denied any reshuffle in the federal cabinet and reminded that the government would complete its mandated period. 

Prime Minister Abbasi also had a goodwill meeting with Pakistani nationals serving the United Nations and thanked them for the work they were doing to promote the organization’s objectives to promote peace and security in the world. 

Abbasi briefed them on Pakistan’s economic progress, improved security situation and consolidation of democracy. 

He answered a number of questions from the UN officials, who appreciated the opportunity to meet him.  

In that regard, they thanked Pakistan’s Ambassador to the UN Dr. Maleeha Lodhi for organizing the meeting. 

They were satisfied about maintaining regular liaison by Ambassador Lodhi with them.  The prime minister told them that Pakistan had undertaken the largest anti-terrorism operation of the world and said hundreds and thousands of troops were involved in eliminating the terrorists from their hideouts.

Foreign Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif, who also attended the get-to-gather, briefed them on key foreign policy questions.  Prime Minister Abbasi, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif and Ambassador Dr. Maleeha Lodhi mingled up with the officials of Pakistan origin working for the world body.   

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