He pulled no punches. He minced no words. He made no bones about condemning the slumbering world conscience while highlighting the Indian barbarism in Kashmir. He warned the world in stark terms of a bloodbath in the state under illegal Indian occupation and made it loud and clear that Pakistan was ready to fight till the end in case a war was imposed on it. Prime Minister Imran Khan hit all the right spots as he delivered his maiden speech at the United Nations General Assembly on Friday at a time of heightened diplomatic tensions between Pakistan and India over the Kashmir issue. He was articulate, passionate and candid, and spoke extempore for a good 50 minutes, with repeated bursts of applause from the audience punctuating his address.
While the ongoing Kashmir situation formed the gist of the PM’s address, he started off with an issue that threatens the whole world — the climate change. “If nothing is done, we are scared humans are facing a huge catastrophe,” the PM warned and said that countries contributing to greenhouse gas emissions must be pushed, with the UN taking initiative. He went on to discuss what he called even more critical an issue — the illicit financial flows or money laundering. While many believe the issue was meant for the consumption of PM’s supporters back home, the fact is that with Pakistan caught in the FATF web, it did merit an audience at the UNGA platform. “Corrupt elites must not be allowed to park their money [abroad]. Why do we have these tax havens? Why are they legal, these secret accounts?” the PM raised stinging questions, asking the UN to lead steps for redress.
The PM, whose speech went far beyond the allotted 15 minutes, also expressed concern at Islamophobia growing at an alarming pace. “Islamophobia is creating divisions, hijab is becoming a weapon,” he observed, adding without qualms that a woman “can take off clothes but she can’t put on more clothes”. Devoting 13 minutes of his speech to the sensitive issue, the PM represented the sentiments of over two billion Muslims around the world as he explained the Muslim world’s reaction to sacrilegious content: “The holocaust is treated with sensitivity because it gives them [Jews] pain. That’s all we ask. Don’t use freedom of speech to cause us pain” as “the Prophet [PBUH] lives in our hearts”.
And as the PM presented the case of the Kashmiris at the global stage, he did it full justice. As he spoke, the Kashmir issue unfolded in a proper sequence with nothing left out, even though he did not have anything written out on a piece of paper. Deliberating on the longstanding conflicts for 23 minutes, the PM expressed his fears about of a potential nuclear conflict — insisting it was not a threat — in case of the global community not paying attention to the suffering of the nine million Kashmiris held hostage by nearly a million Indian troops for about 55 days. Imran turned out to be the first leader after ZA Bhutto who had the courage to directly hit the Indian leadership, as well as the RSS ideology, at the UNGA. Capping the speech very aptly, the PM said, “This is a test of the UN. You are the one who guaranteed the Kashmiris the right [to self-determination]. This is the time not to appease but to take action … Is the world going to appease a 1.3 billion plus market or stand for justice and humanity.”
Prime Minister Imran Khan deserves full marks for forcefully raising the Kashmir issue at the UNGA. There is, however, still the need to work out and adopt a comprehensive action-oriented policy to be maintained at all costs.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 29th, 2019.