Pakistan refuses to be a “scapegoat” for Afghanistan’s bloodshed or to fight wars for others, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi told the United Nations on Thursday.
Addressing the UN General Assembly, Abbasi did not explicitly criticise US President Donald Trump’s new strategy on Afghanistan and South Asia but made clear his displeasure with the renewed onus on Pakistan.
“Having suffered and sacrificed so much due to our role in the global counterterrorism campaign, it is especially galling for Pakistan to be blamed for the military or political stalemate in Afghanistan,” Abbasi said.
“We are not prepared to be anyone’s scapegoat,” he said.
“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 and Pakistan and other regional countries,” he said.
Abbasi said that 27,000 Pakistanis have been killed by extremists since the launch of the US war on terror after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
He called for a priority on eliminating extremists, including from the militant Islamic State (IS) group and Al Qaeda, in Afghanistan but ultimately a political solution with the Taliban.
He said that Pakistan had fought the war against terror from its own resources with economic losses estimated at over US$120 billion.
“Yet, we remain committed to fully implementing our National Action Plan against terrorism and extremism,” he reiterated.
US and Afghan officials have long accused Pakistan of playing a double game and maintaining ties with extremists.
Trump, unveiling a new strategy last month, pledged to take a tougher line on Pakistan — making public what had long been more private US frustrations.
Trump has sent thousands more US troops into Afghanistan in a bid to defeat the Taliban, reversing his previous calls to end America’s longest-ever war.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in his own speech to the United Nations appealed to Pakistan for dialogue, saying that the neighbours can work together to eliminate extremism.
Taliban ‘safe havens’ not in Pakistan
Prime Minister Abbasi reiterated in his speech that Taliban ‘safe havens’ are not located in Pakistan “but in the large tracts of territory controlled by the Taliban in Afghanistan”. He said 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.”
The prime minister 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.
Prime Minister Abbasi 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 Pakistan believed that the urgent goals in Afghanistan should include concerted action to eliminate the presence in Afghanistan of Daesh, Al Qaeda and their affiliates, including the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan and Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, which was recently declared a terrorist organisation by the Security Council.
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.
India’s human rights violations in Kashmir ‘war crimes’
Abbasi, who took office last month after his predecessor Nawaz Sharif was disqualified from office by the Supreme Court, used his UN address to renew Pakistan’s condemnation of India’s rule in held Kashmir.
Accusing India of “massive and indiscriminate force” in held Kashmir, Abbasi urged an international investigation and warned of escalation on their military frontier, the Line of Control.
“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,” he said.
He was referring to an Indian strategic doctrine, rarely discussed openly, of a limited military response on Pakistan that is intended to stop short of triggering a nuclear reprisal.
Human rights violations by India in India-held Kashmir clearly constitute war crimes and violate the Geneva Conventions, Abbasi said, adding that India refuses to implement the UN Security Council resolution on Kashmir that mandates a UN-supervised plebiscite for the people of Jammu and Kashmir “to freely decide their destiny“.
“India’s deployment of 700,000 troops in IHK to suppress Kashmiri movement is the most intense foreign military occupation in recent history,” he said, according to a tweet by Foreign Office spokesman Nafees Zakaria.
Abbasi said Pakistan urges the international community to call on India to halt pellet gun attacks on unarmed Kashmirs, stop “use of rape as instrument of state policy”, end media blackouts, rescind its “draconian emergency laws“, and free all Kashmiri political leaders.
“We ask that the United Nations Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights send an inquiry Commission to occupied Kashmir.”
‘Pakistan developed nuclear weapons after India did’
The prime minister said Pakistan, confronted by a “hostile and increasingly militarised neighbour“, had been obliged to maintain the capability for credible deterrence.
He said Pakistan 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.”
He said the world community would be well served by enabling Pakistan to join global non-proliferation arrangements, such as the Nuclear Suppliers Group on a non- discriminatory basis.
‘Rohingya ethnic cleansing an affront to humanity’
The prime minister 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.
Abbasi said the Middle East was wrecked by war and violence — in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and elsewhere. Terrorist violence has 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.
He said rising racism and religious hatred is erecting physical walls and psychological barriers between nations and peoples.
“The ethnic cleansing of Rohingyas is not just an affront to all norms of humanity but also challenges our collective conscience,” he said.
‘We seek good relations with all states’
Abbasi in his speech 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, we believe that it is in our collective interest to pursue and realise the goals of the Paris Agreement,” he said.
Prime Minister Abbasi shared with the world body that Pakistan’s economy had recorded a “remarkable” turnaround in the past four years. He said the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) would further contribute to the economic upsurge.
“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 is 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,” he remarked.