Thursday October 21, 2021

Vital discourse

September 26, 2021

The virtual address to the UN General Assembly by Prime Minister Imran Khan undeniably shook the conscience of the international community. Besides pleading for collective action against the triple challenges of Covid-19, the accompanying economic meltdown and climate change, he also took a swipe at big powers’ double standards on human rights – particularly Indian atrocities in Indian Illegally-Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJ&K).

He expressed concerns over the rising phenomenon of Islamophobia and urged the world to extend all possible support to the Taliban regime in Afghanistan to forestall the looming humanitarian crisis, warning that abandoning the Afghan people could have disastrous consequences.

On the four-decade-long Afghanistan conflict, he rightly lamented the fact that even though Pakistan was an US ally against the Soviet blitzkrieg in Afghanistan, the US left Pakistan to face the consequences on its own after its withdrawal. He talked about the ‘war on terror’ and added that besides human losses of more than 70,000 Pakistanis, the country faced an economic loss of $150 billion.

He added that the country also hosts three million Afghan refugees and 3.5 million internally displaced persons. And even though it dealt with all the accompanying debilitating consequences, Pakistan is being blamed for the turn of events in Afghanistan, by the US.

The reality is that accusations levelled against Pakistan are a deliberate attempt by the US to set the country up as a fall guy so that it can easily sweep under the carpet its own follies and failures in Afghanistan, the biggest being to foist a military solution and trying to set in motion a process of cultural change in a tribal society without understanding its dynamics and ground realities.

In fact, the US, in a big way, is responsible for the post-Soviet withdrawal events that saw a rise of terrorism and the use of Afghan territory by different terrorist entities, besides factional fighting between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance. The permeating situation in Afghanistan is also a consequence of the wrong decision of the US to pull out before a political settlement between the Taliban and Afghan government.

One can hardly contest his assessment of the likely humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, the urgency of helping the Afghan people, and the consequences of leaving them alone. He rightly said “If we neglect Afghanistan right now, according to the UN half the people of Afghanistan are already vulnerable, and by next year almost 90 percent of the people in Afghanistan will go below the poverty line...

“And this will have serious repercussions not just for the neighbours of Afghanistan but everywhere. A destabilised, chaotic Afghanistan will again become a safe haven for international terrorists - the reason why the US came to Afghanistan in the first place ... We must strengthen and stabilize the current government for the sake of people of Afghanistan.”

In regard to the situation in IIOJ&K following the abrogation of Article 370, where the Indian state is trying to change the region’s demographic realities through the promulgation of a new domicile law, blatant violations of human rights, and the continuation of the killing-spree by Indian security forces, he was right to say that all those actions by the Modi regime are in breach of UN resolutions, international and humanitarian laws, and the fourth Geneva Convention. Pakistan has issued two dossiers to the international community to highlight human rights violations committed by Indian security forces, detailing Indian atrocities in IIOJ&K and its acts of state terrorism against Pakistan.

Imran Khan courageously castigated the double standards of the world community, in regard to human rights, in these words “It is unfortunate ... that the world’s approach to violations of human rights lacks even-handedness ... Geopolitical considerations ... often compel major powers to overlook the transgressions of their affiliated’ countries”.

He reiterated that Pakistan desired peace with India which, however, was contingent upon the implementation of UNSC resolutions on Kashmir and the creation of a conducive environment by India for a meaningful and result-oriented engagement.

Rising Islamophobia was also the focus of his attention. The phenomenon has raised its ugly head in the aftermath of 9/11, creating social upheavals in the relevant countries and casting its evil shadow on vitally needed inter-faith harmony at the global level. Dilating on how the issue became the international concern he said “In the aftermath of 9/11 terrorist attacks, terrorism has been associated with Islam by some quarters. This has increased the tendency of right-wing, xenophobic and violent nationalists, extremists and terrorist groups to target Muslims.”

The world has seen some ugly manifestation of this phenomenon including the mosque attack in New Zealand in which nearly 150 Muslims were killed. The world urgently needs to pay attention to this development. No person can contest his claim that India practises Islamophobia as a state policy. He was right to say that “the hate-filled ‘Hindutva’ ideology, propagated by the fascist RSS-BJP regime, has unleashed a reign of fear and violence against India’s 200 million strong Muslim community. Mob lynching by cow vigilantes; frequent pogroms, such as the one in New Delhi last year; discriminatory citizenship laws to purge India of Muslims; and a campaign to destroy mosques across India and obliterate its Muslim heritage and history, are all part of this criminal enterprise.”

No wonder then that the former Indian PM, in an article published in March 2020, had held the Modi government responsible for the killing of 50 Muslims in Delhi when they were protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Bill, and also accused it of turning India into a majoritarian state.

The triple challenges that humanity currently face, as mentioned by the prime minister, are of colossal magnitude beyond the prowess of any single nation to overcome, and they do need collective action to ward off their cataclysmic impact. They need complete solidarity among all nations, but as we have seen in the case of Covid-19, the world failed to show solidarity and some countries even tried to extract political mileage out of it. In the backdrop of this reality, the prime minister was not off the mark when he said “The common threats faced by us today not only expose the fragility of the international system ... To address the triple crisis ... we need a comprehensive strategy,”

The prime minister’s discourse indeed reflected his farsightedness and stature as a global statesman, rather than a leader of a third world country, who minced no words when he talked about global realities.

The writer is a freelance contributor. Email: [email protected]