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APP
February 16, 2020

UN chief reaches Islamabad

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APP
February 16, 2020

UNITED NATIONS: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres arrived in Islamabad early on Sunday morning. It's his first trip to Pakistan as the world body's chief during which he will speak at an International Conference on 40 Years of Hosting Afghan Refugees in Pakistan, and meet Prime Minister Imran Khan and other high-level government officials, his spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

The two-day conference in Islamabad on February 17 would be a recognition of Pakistan's "tremendous generosity" in hosting millions of refugees from Afghanistan over four decades, the spokesman told the regular noon briefing at UN Headquarters in New York. The conference, which will be inaugurated by Prime Minister Khan, is being organised by the Government of Pakistan and the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

Dujarric said the UN chief besides meeting PM Khan, will have talks with Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Hussain Qureshi and later speak at an event on sustainable development and climate change. On Monday, after speaking at the International Conference, along with High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, Guterres will participate in a high-level panel discussion and other events at that conference, the spokesman said. The Secretary-General, the High Commissioner and the Foreign Minister will also speak to the press. The Secretary-General will also meet with President Arif Alvi on Monday. The Secretary-General will be in Lahore on Tuesday, where he will meet with students and attend an event on Pakistan's polio vaccination campaign. He will also travel to Kartarpur to visit the Sikh holy site of Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib. The Secretary-General will return to New York on Wednesday. Replying to the question, the spokesman said the UN chief will not be visiting the disputed Kashmir region during this trip.

Earlier, the spokesman was asked whether the situation in Indian occupied Kashmir and the resulting in Indo-Pakistan tensions will be discussed during the Secretary-General's talks with the Pakistani leadership. "Well, I have no doubt that the Secretary-General and the Prime Minister will discuss a host of issues," Dujarric replied. "What issues are raised obviously also depends on what issues the Prime Minister brings up."

Over the years, and especially after India's annexation of Jammu and Kashmir on August 5, the UN chief has been expressing serious concern over the deteriorating situation in the disputed state and calling for a dialogue between the two countries, saying that any solution should be rooted in the respect for human rights of the Kashmiri people. Besides issuing statements calling for restraint as firing across the Line of Control (LoC) in the Kashmir region escalated amid threats to Pakistan from the Indian leadership, the UN chief has discussed the issue of Kashmir with Prime Minister Imran Khan and his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi. But Guterres has reported no progress in his bid to move India and Pakistan to the negotiating table.

Three days after India unilaterally revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, the secretary-general reaffirmed the UN's stand on the core dispute between India and Pakistan, which remains on the Security Council's agenda. "The position of the United Nations on this region is governed by the Charter of the United Nations and applicable Security Council resolutions," he said. "The Secretary-General also recalls the 1972 Agreement on bilateral relations between India and Pakistan, also known as the Simla Agreement", the statement continued, "which states that the final status of Jammu and Kashmir is to be settled by peaceful means", in accordance with the UN Charter.

The secretary-general said he was "concerned over reports of restrictions on the Indian-side of Kashmir, which could exacerbate the human rights situation in the region", and called on "all parties to refrain from taking steps that could affect the status of Jammu and Kashmir." The UN chief has also repeatedly asserted that his good offices are available only if both sides ask for it. While Pakistan welcomed his offer, India rejected it. The UN has long maintained an institutional presence in the contested area between India and Pakistan.

According to the Security Council mandate given in resolution 307 of 1971, the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) observes and reports on ceasefire violations along and across the Line of Control and the working boundary between the South Asian neighbours in Jammu and Kashmir, as well as reports developments that could lead to ceasefire violations. In its efforts to seek justice for the Kashmiri people suffering under a repressive lockdown, Pakistan also turned to the UN Security Council, which discussed the crisis thrice in less than six months. In its last meeting on Jan.15, he said all 15 members voiced their concern over the human rights violations in occupied Kashmir and called for an end to those abuses.

Meanwhile, besides Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet and other high-ranking UN officials and independent human rights rapporteurs had condemned the Indian actions and reiterated Jammu and Kashmir's disputed status and that it should be resolved according to the United Nations Security Council resolutions that pledged the right of self-determination to the Kashmiri people.