War of words at UN General Assembly: No one needs to sponsor terror in Pakistan, Islamabad does it by itself

First it was the sparring match at the United Nations. Now, it's an air intrusion in a very sensitive sector. Earlier. it was the deliberate and brutal killing of a BSF soldier, not to mention the continued targetting of security forces inside Kashmir. Pakistan seems to be on a slippery slope of machismo combined with a generous dose of vitriol.

That vitriol was more than evident at the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly, which resembled an India-Pakistan cricket match with the sparring by the respective foreign ministers of India and Pakistan running tandem with the most vindictive slanging match on social media. The Pakistan foreign minister hit his stride in third paragraph, beating all previous pitches by his countrymen, by accusing India of sponsoring terrorism, sabotaging dialogue, and being all in all an aggressor against all its neighbours. This outrageous statement probably arose from the fact that Pakistani diplomats had little ammunition to use.

Shah Mehmood Qureshi meant to showcase Pakistan's sincerity to the UN body. But what forcibly strikes the onlooker is that its high time the UN reformed itself to disallow a country that sheltered Osama Bin Laden, arguably the worst international terrorist in recent times. AP

Shah Mehmood Qureshi meant to showcase Pakistan's sincerity to the UN body. But what forcibly strikes the onlooker is that its high time the UN reformed itself to disallow a country that sheltered Osama Bin Laden, arguably the worst international terrorist in recent times. AP

Barring the one Kulbushan Jadhav, alleged spy and prize catch of the Pakistani intelligence agencies, all Islamabad could produce by way of argument was a UN Human Rights Commission report on Kashmir written by a certain Jordanian diplomat of questionable beliefs. Pakistan, as Shah Mehmood Qureshi pointed out, has done four terms at the Human Rights Council and seven at the Security Council. Qureshi meant to showcase Pakistan’s sincerity to the UN body. But what forcibly strikes the onlooker is that its high time the UN reformed itself to disallow a country that sheltered Osama Bin Laden, arguably the worst international terrorist in recent times, to be a part of any UN body, particularly the human rights council.

Its not that previous Pakistani officials have refrained from making such accusations. Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in his speech at the United Nations highlighted most of these issues, but backed away from directly accusing India of sponsoring terrorism. Neither did former prime minister Abbasi do so when it was his turn to speak in 2017. While there was the usual hyberbole on Kashmir, it still remained within limits of what is expected at such a gathering.

Qureshi had no qualms, bemoaning that the country faced terrorism “ financed, facilitated and orchestrated by our eastern neighbour”, and offering to provide proof of such support including the horrific attack on an army school in Peshawar and much else.

The fact that Pakistan harbours more than 26 terrorist groups of various hues on its soil, most of whom are warring with each other as much as against Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Russia, China, Bangladesh, Maldives, Iran, Iraq, Syria, not to mention most parts of Europe and the United States, seems to have escaped the erudite foreign minister. No one needs to ‘sponsor’ terrorists in Pakistan. Islamabad does it all itself.

Then there is the constant accusation that India is avoiding talks, a refrain that sometimes taken up by sections of the Indian press as well. The truth can be clearly established by anyone who takes the trouble to make a simple chronology of events. The Prime Minister of Pakistan replied to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s congratulatory letter on 14 September, where he also suggested a meeting between the foreign ministers of both the sides.

On 18 September, reports said that a BSF soldier was killed in firing by Pakistani forces in a BAT action — which means essentially heavily armed terrorists supported by regular forces. This happened on the international border, which was unusual in itself. On 20 September, Indian ministry or external affairs confirmed that a meeting was to take place though the agenda was not finalised, apparently deciding on ignoring the border action for the moment.

On 20 September, Pakistani papers reported that the Pakistan Postal Department had released a postage stamp commemorating Burhan Wani, the slain militant leader. These were a series of 20 stamps that the postal department began to release from 24 July, a day before the elections, according to BBC. The decision-making included the caretaker Prime Minister’s office, the communications and foreign ministry among others. The series includes victims of alleged chemical weapons attacks and pellet injuries. But here’s the thing. The Burhan Wani postage stamp appears to have been issued or reported as issued on the day that New Delhi agreed to talks. This was clearly deliberate provocation. The next day Delhi cancelled the talks.

This series of events is part of a pattern. Earlier, at a meeting with this army and intelligence chiefs among others, Nawaz Sharif had wondered why the Line of Control would go quite literally ballistic, every time the two countries decided to take steps towards dialogue. Following Sharif’s visit to New Delhi in May 2014 and surprisingly positive meetings, not only the LoC but also the International border erupted in a hail of gun fire for reasons that were never entirely clear. At the time, even the BSF was puzzled as to why a normally peaceful IB escalated into a near war zone.

Imran Khan needs to get his bright young officers on this recurring pattern, if he at all wants to set his seal on a “Naya India-Pakistan” chapter. The alternative is to carry on as before. Islamabad could take this route.

The reason that continued tensions could be a favoured option is another line in Qureshi’s speech where he said, “The vision of Belt and Road is a path-breaking initiative by a world leader of great sagacity and foresight to create a community of common destiny”. This hard selling of another power is quite unusual for even Pakistan, even when it has been in dire straits. For the final answer look at who wrote his speech for him, and to who Qureshi answers to.

Certainly not just his prime minister.


Updated Date: Oct 01, 2018 14:17 PM

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