Selective Condemnation Of Rights Abuses Undermined PM Imran’s Credibility
In his UNGA speech, PM Imran Khan only focused on the mistreatment of Muslims in Kashmir, ignoring the persecution of Muslims in China and of Muslims in Yemen by the Saudi regime. He, therefore, lost the credibility he had sought to build by castigating Islamophobia in the West, writes Ahmed Faruqui.
The primary purpose of the Prime Minister’s visit was to address the UN General Assembly on the issue of Kashmir and to remind it that Kashmiris had been not been granted the right of self-determination promised decades ago to them by the UN Security Council. That address was to serve as the climax of his seven-day visit.
Earlier in the week, he was hosted at the Council on Foreign Relations by its president, Dr. Richard Haass, a prominent scholar who has also served as a US diplomat. The conversation, followed by a question and answer session, saw Imran make some startling revelations.
He said the supporting the US in the war on terror was the biggest blunder in Pakistani foreign policy which had cost Pakistan nearly a hundred thousand lives and $150 billion. He also stated that the ISI had trained Al-Qaeda.
During his US first visit as prime minister, he had told an interviewer that Pakistani intelligence had tipped off its US counterpart about where Osama bin Laden was hiding, facilitating the Navy Seals who flew in on stealth helicopters in the dead of the night, found and killed him, and took the body to Kabul for later burial in the Arabian Sea.
He also conceded that Pakistan had trained some 40,000 terrorists that resided in the country and it was trying its best to re-educate and re-train them so normalcy would return to the land. At one point, he seemed to suggest that the Durand Line was not a real border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
If any political leader or journalist in Pakistan had made any of those explosive revelations, they would have been castigated in the press, lambasted as traitors, possibly put on trial, convicted and incarcerated or worse, they would have been disappeared.
The fact that Imran Khan is making such revelations now without suffering any ill consequences suggests that the deep state has changed its thinking. It has decided to own up to its prior sins in a public confessional, in the hope that it will rehabilitate Pakistan’s image in the world. By blaming its predecessors for carrying them out, it has sought to absolve itself from those sins.
Of course, talk is cheap. Only time will tell if the deep state has indeed had a change of heart and dropped its policy of supporting covert actions in India and in Indian-held Kashmir.
When the issue of China’s detention of a million Uighur Muslims was raised during the conversation, Imran Khan said China was one of Pakistan’s best friends. Thus, it would not be appropriate for Pakistan to raise the issue publicly. While this was an improvement over saying that he did not know what was happening to Muslims in China, which was what he had said twice in the preceding months, it still smacked of a double-standard.
He also told Dr. Haass that he was bogged down with a myriad of other problems and could not afford to take on the Chinese issue. And then he did something entirely unexpected. He said if Dr. Haass had to deal with as many problems as him (Imran), he would have a heart attack. Haas, clearly taken aback by this assertion, smiled it off, and said no.
During his interview with CNN’s Christian Amanpour, he critiqued India’s violations of the human and civil rights of Kashmiris. The conversation was balanced and thoughtful. There were no histrionics or theatrical gestures. He had “saved his best for last.”
Imran slipped into “Container” vocabulary when he spoke at the UNGA. The rambling discourse touched on climate change, Islamophobia, tax havens for rogue politicians, and the issue of Kashmir. He waxed eloquent on how his government was going to plant 10 billion trees to combat climate change, how it was doing its best to recover the wealth that his predecessors had sent offshore, how Islam was a religion of peace and there was no such thing as Islamic terrorism. He argued marginalised groups became radicalised when they saw no other path forward.
When it came to Kashmir, he started fulminating against India’s Prime Minister Modi. He accused Modi of being a modern Hitler and stated that he had no interest in talking with him. Imran said that talking to Modi would be tantamount to appeasement in the Neville Chamberlain fashion.
He warned the world that once the curfew was lifted in Kashmir, a blood bath would ensue. Pakistan would be blamed. India, seven times bigger, would attack Pakistan and Pakistan would respond. Imitating Churchill, he said Pakistan would not surrender. It would fight to the last drop of blood. In the end, Pakistan would be forced to use nuclear weapons, unleashing Armageddon.
It’s unclear whether the prime minister’s accusations against India changed the view point of the world leaders at the UNGA. Throwing the gauntlet at the UN for not fulfilling its duties has never worked in the past. And it’s very clear that the vituperative manner in which India was accused did not bring Pakistan closer to achieving an endurable peace with India. And it remains to be seen whether the fulminations brought the Kashmiris any closer to realising their human and civil rights, let alone their political ambitions.
During the week, both Imran and Modi met Trump bilaterally. Trump called both of them fantastic people and great man, common words in the POTUS’s vocabulary. Trump offered to mediate only if both parties invited him to do so. Modi is not taking a hint and mediation appears unlikely.
By only focusing on the mistreatment of Muslims in Kashmir, and ignoring the persecution of Muslims in China, Pakistan’s close ally, and of Muslims in Yemen by the Saudi regime, another close ally, Imran lost the credibility he had sought to build by castigating Islamophobia in the West.
At one point, he cited the persecution by Myanmar of the Rohingya Muslims, but did not apologise for Pakistan’s mistreatment of its Bengali population, undermining his credibility by engaging in selective attacks.
He bemoaned the fact that India was still being courted by the world’s nations because of the size of its economy. Again, it’s unclear he gained much by shaming the world.
By offering to mediate between the US and the Taliban and between Saudi Arabia and Iran, he sought to elevate his status to that of a Henry Kissinger. As if to nail that diplomat-scholar image down, he had himself photographed reading the newest book by William Dalrymple on the flight back home.
Ahmad Faruqui is a defense analyst and economist. He has taught at the universities of Karachi, California at Davis, and San Jose State. Faruqui is the author of “Rethinking the National Security of Pakistan” (Ashgate, 2003). Contact him via Twitter @AhmadFaruqui