Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s address to the UN General Assembly is notable for its candid yet forceful articulation of issues and anxieties undermining peace and stability in this region and beyond. Highlighting the worsening human rights situation in the Occupied Kashmir and dangers inherent in India’s escalating violations of the Line of Control (the day he spoke Indian shelling on villages along the Working Boundary killed four of a family and injured 12 others), he demanded an international investigation and the appointment of a UN special envoy to probe Indian atrocities. It may be recalled that a few months ago, realizing the gravity of the prevailing conditions, chief of the UN Human Rights Council, Zeid Radd al-Hussein, had written to both Indian and Pakistani governments to allow an independent and impartial international mission to assess the situation in both Pakistan- and Indian-administered Kashmir, which was welcomed by Pakistan and, not surprising, rejected by India. The UN’s own resolutions on Kashmir put a special responsibility on it to stop human rights violations in the disputed territory. It must not remain a helpless bystander.
Pointing to the likely repercussions of the international community’s indifference towards the situation, Prime Minister Abbasi said: “Pakistan has acted with restraint. But if India does venture across the LoC, or acts upon its doctrine of limited war against Pakistan, it will evoke a strong and matching response.” Needless to say, such an outbreak of hostilities between the two nuclear-armed countries could easily spiral out of control, leading to catastrophic consequences that no one in the world would want to see. It can only be hoped, therefore, that India’s friends will persuade it not to ratchet up tensions and resolve Kashmir as well as other outstanding issues of dispute with Pakistan through revival of the moribund peace process. The Prime Minister also dwelt at length on the Afghan conflict. Iterating Pakistan’s stance already stated in the wake of Trump administration’s new policy on Afghanistan and South Asia, he said “we are not prepared to be anyone’s scapegoat. What Pakistan is not prepared to do is to fight the Afghan war on Pakistan’s soil. Nor can we endorse any failed strategy that will prolong and intensify the suffering of the people of Afghanistan, Pakistan and other regional countries.” Responding to the allegations of harbouring Taliban, he reminded the world leaders that Taliban’s safe havens are not in Pakistan “but in the large tracts of territory controlled by the Taliban in Afghanistan.”
Basically, the message he sought to deliver was not just that stop blaming his country for your own failures, but that Pakistan is ready to work with the US and the Afghan government where all sides’ interests converge, ie, on taking concerted action against IS, al Qaeda and their affiliates, including the TTP and Jamaatul Ahrar. And that co-operative endeavours are needed for the settlement of this perpetual war. Towards that end, he suggested negotiations between Kabul government and the Afghan Taliban through the Quadrilateral Co-ordination Group or any trilateral format. It is worth noting that during his interactions with the media on the sidelines of UNGA session although Afghan President Ashraf Ghani repeated his usual demand of abolishing alleged militant hideouts in Pakistan, and in his meeting with President Trump paid him glowing tributes for his new Afghan strategy, he also said “although the cloud of uncertainty has been lifted [by Trump’s open-ended decision to remain in Afghanistan] but equally important is your commitment to a political solution at the end of this process.” In other words, those directly affected by war want an urgent settlement at the negotiating table rather than its prolongation. The way forward is for all to make sincere efforts in that direction.