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At UN General Assembly, PM Imran Must Come Out Of The Container Mode

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This is the second time Prime Minister Imran Khan is all set to address the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

Last year, the prime minister discussed the annexation of Kashmir by the Indian government, Islamophobia, climate change, and money laundering in a 45-minute long speech.

On Kashmir, the premier warned the global community of a bloodbath after the lifting of curfew in the occupied region. He had said India’s actions would radicalise Kashmiris and increase the likelihood of a terrorist attack. “There will be a reaction to this, Pakistan will be blamed, two nuclear-armed countries will come face to face as we came in February,” he had said.

He had also urged the world to curb money laundering, as the money stolen from the developing world was being parked in offshore accounts and there were no laws to bring it back.

“Our country was plundered by the ruling elite. And they could easily get their money out. And when we locate properties in western capitals bought by this money through corruption and money laundering by these corrupt leaders, we find it so difficult to retrieve it.”

PM Imran had criticised the West for rising Islamophobia in North America and Europe, saying certain western leaders equated terrorism with Islam, calling it Islamic terrorism and radical Islam. What is radical Islam? There is only one Islam,” Imran Khan said.

On the sidelines of the summit, leaders of Pakistan, Turkey and Malaysia also decided to jointly launch an English language television channel dedicated to confronting Islamophobia and removing ‘misperceptions’ about Islam.

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Why PM needs a new speech

Imran Khan’s tour to the UN, especially the speech, was hailed by the pro-government press and the supporters of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) especially. The public response to the speech was lukewarm, nothing they haven’t heard before.

In its coverage of the speech, Dawn newspaper called it ‘at times apparently extemporaneous’. But that is beside the point. Let’s look at what PM Imran’s speech has achieved over the one year and what he needs to avoid this time.

Despite his hard-hitting criticism of India on the Kashmir issue, the global community, except China, Malaysia, and Turkey, remains indifferent to the issue, while Pakistan increasingly finds itself diplomatically isolated due to poor human rights record. It’s been over a year since Kashmir is under lockdown, but all that aggressive posturing by the premier at the UN did not help.

It is a little ironic to speak for the besieged Kashmiris when freedom of expression is rapidly shrinking in Pakistan, and human rights activists are detained judicially and extrajudicially. We hope this time the prime minister will have something concrete to show in terms of human rights if he wants the world to take Pakistan seriously.

Islamist extremism, which our PM doesn’t acknowledge, exists, so does Islamophobia — both issues need to be resolved for the world to be a better place. However, the criticism coming from PM Imran Khan is a little misplaced for two reasons. Firstly, in Pakistan, things are going from bad to worse for religious minorities, evident from recent anti-Shia rallies.

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Secondly, our neighbouring country has put millions of Muslims in concentration camps for ‘re-education’, but there was not a single word about it. Nor were there condemnations on atrocities committed in Yemen by Saudi-led alliance. So, Does the PM want the world to trust his word even though he conveniently skips rights violations committed by allied countries?

The last tour was a disaster in terms of foreign policy as well. The promises made to Malaysia were not kept due to Saudi influence. Nor did the television channel in collaboration with Malaysia and Turkey to address Islamophobia materialise. Maybe this time the PM should ask for advice from the Foreign Office before going on making promises and then turning back on his words.

Lastly, PM Imran Khan should understand that there is no container at the UN, so no need to go after the opposition at a forum that is highly sought after. Instead of taking jibes at opposition and blaming the opposition for all the ills, maybe the prime minister will use the global forum to start a constructive debate this time while also acknowledging the shortcomings of Pakistan in certain areas.

Lying through one’s teeth would be the mockery of the state the prime minister represents, but willingness to work with the global community in upholding the idea of justice and accountability in the true sense of the word is what is needed in the PM’s UNGA speech.

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Naya Daur