Image:UN Photo/Cia Pak
New York: Against the backdrop of what he called “a critical time” in Afghanistan, Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan said on Friday that if the situation there is neglected, “a huge humanitarian crisis” lies ahead.
“A destabilized, chaotic Afghanistan will again become a safe haven for international terrorists – the reason why the US came to Afghanistan in the first place,” Khan said in a pre-recorded address to the UN General Assembly’s annual high-level debate.
After the COVID-19 pandemic forced last year’s debate to be held almost entirely virtually, the 2021 session is being held in a hybrid format, combining in-person and virtual participation.
In a wide-ranging address that touched on the impacts of climate change, the ongoing fallout from the pandemic, and the need to achieve sustainable development for all, the Prime Minister also warned of looming “serious repercussions” in the wake of the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan last month, not just for that country’s neighbours, but everywhere.
“There is only one way to go. We must strengthen and stabilize the current government,” he said, arguing that if the world community “incentivises [the Taliban]” to respect human rights, keep terrorists off their soil and have an inclusive government, “it will be a win-win situation for everyone”.
He stressed: “This is a critical time for Afghanistan. Help is needed there. Humanitarian assistance has to be given there immediately”.
Indeed, he said that according to the UN, half the people of Afghanistan are already vulnerable, and by next year almost 90 percent of the people there will fall below the poverty line.
Noting “bold steps” taken by the UN Secretary-General, he urged the global leaders to “mobilize the international community and move in this direction”.
The world is facing triple challenge of COVID-19, economic calamities, and climate emergencies, attested Prime Minister Khan.
“The virus does not discriminate between nations and people. Nor do the catastrophes imposed by uncertain weather patterns”, he said, noting that these common threats not only expose the fragility of the international system but also underscores “the oneness of humanity”.
Although Pakistan has been successful in containing the pandemic through “a calibrated strategy of ‘smart lockdowns’”, the Prime Minister underscored the need for a “comprehensive strategy” that encompasses vaccine equity; financing for developing countries; and investment strategies to alleviate poverty, create jobs, build sustainable infrastructure and bridge the digital divide.
“I propose that the Secretary-General convene an SDG summit in 2025 to review and accelerate implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”, he said.
Describing Islamophobia as a “pernicious phenomenon” that must be combatted collectively, Mr. Khan spoke of a post-9/11 tendency for xenophobic and violent nationalists, as well as extremists and terrorist groups to target Muslims.
Against this backdrop, he called on the Secretary-General to convene a global dialogue on countering the rise of Islamophobia while simultaneously promoting interfaith harmony.
He underscored that “the worst and most pervasive form” of Islamophobia “now rules India” and said the “Hindutva ideology” being propagated by the current Government was unleashing “a reign of fear and violence” against India’s 200-million-strong Muslim community.
The Prime Minister maintained that “Pakistan desires peace with India, as with all its neighbours”, but sustainable peace is “contingent upon resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute”.
He noted that Pakistan had “unveiled a detailed dossier on gross and systematic violations of human rights by the Indian Security Forces” in the region.
“The onus remains on India to create a conducive environment for meaningful and result-oriented engagement with Pakistan”, he said, which requires that Delhi reverse its unilateral and illegal measures instituted since 5 August 2019; ends its oppression and human rights violations against the people of Kashmir; and "reverses the demographic changes in the occupied territory."