After 50 years, we raised the issue in the Security Council which has now discussed the situation in Jammu & Kashmir twice in the last six months. This has reaffirmed our long-standing position that Jammu and Kashmir is an international dispute which remains on the Security Council’s agenda. Its consideration by the Council reflects recognition of the disputed status of Jammu and Kashmir and the gravity of the prevailing situation there. We believe that increased international scrutiny will exert pressure on India and restrain it from magnifying its illegal and draconian oppression in IOJK.
Similarly, a joint statement was issued by more than fifty countries in the Human Rights Council, which condemned the human rights abuses by India in IOJK. The OIC, through its Contact Group on Kashmir also voiced its concern on this issue. The United Nations and its various agencies have rejected the so-called political maps issued by the Indian government wrongly projecting the occupied territory of Jammu & Kashmir and Azad Kashmir as part of the Indian Union. The spokesperson of the UN Secretary General has affirmed that these maps have no validity for the UN which continues to depict Jammu and Kashmir in its maps as a disputed territory in accordance with UNSC resolutions.
Our UN Mission continuously apprises UN member states of the situation in IOJK and the developments there. All relevant news stories that come out of IOJK are shared with all Permanent Missions, UN Officials, think tanks and NGOs.
As part of successful lobbying efforts by the Government of Pakistan, India’s actions have attracted almost universally negative media coverage. A spate of news stories and op-eds have highlighted the suppression of Kashmiri human rights, the risk of war between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan and the rise of the extremist “Hindutva” ideology in India.
These developments have vindicated Pakistan’s longstanding and principled position on Kashmir and once again brought this issue into the global spotlight. We will continue to make these efforts. The growing international scrutiny is exerting considerable pressure on India as apparent from its less than credible attempts to portray “normalcy” in occupied Kashmir. Such pressure will certainly succeed in easing India’s clampdown in IOJK and restrain its aggression against Pakistan. It will also advance the ability of the Kashmiri people to struggle for their right to self determination.
Has Pakistan sensitized the UN on the plight of Muslims in India? Is the Pakistan mission creating awareness among Muslim countries at the UN about the differential treatment being meted out to Muslims in India?
Prime Minister Imran Khan was the first to alert the world to the implications of the fascist and extremist policies of the current Indian government in his historic address to the General Assembly on 27 September 2019.
We have consistently told the world that the BJP-RSS government is stoking Islamophobia by using religion as an instrument of identity politics in India. We firmly believe that this is all part of the larger extremist “Hindutva” agenda of the RSS-BJP Indian government. The illegal attempt to annex IOJK, the Babri Mosque verdict and the National Registration of Citizens (NRC) law and the latest Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) are all driven by a toxic mix of an extremist ‘Hindutva’ ideology and hegemonic ambitions in the region. Modi’s Hindutva policies have completely exposed the hollowness of Indian claims to ‘secularism’ and ‘democracy’.
Undoubtedly, there is greater awareness about the plight of minorities (in particular Muslims) in India at the United Nations today. In this regard, I would like to draw attention to the latest report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Minorities who expressed alarm at the despicable treatment accorded to Muslims and other minorities in India. In the context of NRC-CAA, the Special Rapporteur noted and I quote directly from his report:
“Millions of Muslims in Assam face the threat of being deemed “foreigners” and treated as non-citizens, and could therefore become stateless in India”. He further cautioned the world that this process could fuel a xenophobic climate, religious intolerance and discrimination, leading to other states in India using similar approaches to deny or remove citizenship for Muslims and other minorities. The Special Rapporteur has rightly called on the Security Council and the Human Right Council to intervene “as a matter of urgency in view of the risk and scale of the crisis emerging in India, with millions of members of minorities soon being deemed foreigners, treated as non-citizens and possibly finding themselves stateless, to consider immediate discussions and actions on this issue with the Government of India in order to protect the human rights of those involved and avoid what could easily become a threat to regional peace and security.”
As you can see, the Special Rapporteur’s report fully vindicates Pakistan’s position and has crystallized the widespread concern around the world about the direction and consequences of the policies of Modi’s BJP-RSS government.
The OIC foreign ministers will probably meet in April to address the issue of Muslims in India. What are the preparations?
The next OIC conference of Foreign Ministers will take place in Niamey, Niger this April. Preparations for the conference are underway at OIC Headquarters in Jeddah. Pakistan is likely to host the following OIC Foreign Ministers Conference.
Does our UN mission find Pakistan’s international reputation in a better shape than before?
Over the last 75 years, Pakistan has made significant contributions to the principles and purposes of the UN Charter, in particular the promotion and maintenance of international peace and security. We have served on the Security Council seven times and presided over the Economic and Social Council six times. Pakistan has been an ardent advocate of multilateralism and the primacy of the principles of the United Nations Charter in the conduct of international affairs. Pakistan is a major contributor to the UN Peacekeeping.
Pakistan is currently an elected member of a number of key UN bodies including Human Rights Council (2018-20); ECOSOC (2019-2021); Chair for the Commission on Narcotics Drugs (2020); Chair for the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) (2020) and UNICEF Executive Board (2018-20) to name a few. Recently, we were also elected as Head of UNESCO’s Education Commission. Pakistan is likely to be elected as President of the ECOSOC again later this year.
Pakistan’s wide membership of multiple UN bodies is reflective of our strong standing and credibility at the UN. However, the “War on Terror” took its toll on Pakistan, physically, financially and diplomatically. For about a decade, Pakistan suffered the most due to terrorism; including terrorism supported and sponsored from abroad. During this period, India and other adversaries deliberately portrayed a negative image of Pakistan through an orchestrated diplomatic and propaganda campaign. However, with the concerted efforts of our armed forces and security agencies, Pakistan has broken the back of terrorist groups operating against Pakistan. The improved security situation in Pakistan has also been duly acknowledged by the United Nations. The UN has restored the status of Islamabad as a “family station” for its international staff. The responsible and forward looking polices of Prime Minister Imran Khan and his Government, eschewing extremism and promoting tolerance, have contributed greatly to generating a positive image of Pakistan in the international community.
Which countries have most backed Pakistan’s cause at the UN? Who are Pakistan’s most prominent supporters at the UN?
In multilateral forums coalitions are usually formed issue by issue. A group of friends on one issue may be opponents on another. For example, the EU and OIC members have opposing and divergent positions on a number of human rights issues; however, both groups support the resolution on the plight of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar at the UN.
Notwithstanding the fluid and issue-specific partnerships at the UN, Pakistan enjoys strong and consistent cooperation with its strategic partner China and brotherly member states, including Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and other OIC members, on the issues of concern to Pakistan including Kashmir, Afghanistan, terrorism and development.
Similarly, on issues of development, our position is fully aligned with the G-77 and non-aligned countries.
Has our mission further worked on the issue of Islamophobia following PM Imran Khan’s speech at the UNGA?
Countering Islamophobia is one of Pakistan’s and Prime Minister Imran Khan’s key priorities. He spoke passionately on the subject during his address to the General Assembly in September last year.
Unfortunately, despite widespread prevalence of Islamophobia, the debate on the issue at the United Nations remains highly divisive between the western countries and the OIC members.
The western countries are of the view that any official endorsement of the term “Islamophobia” and its criminalization by the United Nations would limit the scope of freedom of expression, including one’s right to criticize any set of religious beliefs or views. On the contrary, OIC members are of the view that a misguided “absolute” notion of freedom of expression allows hate speech and Islamophobia to be mainstreamed resulting in systematic prejudice and violence against Muslims. For OIC members, Islamophobia is not a threat to freedom of expression but a new type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness.
We are closely working with OIC countries to revive the campaign for criminalizing certain manifestations of Islamophobia and other forms of incitement to violence at the United Nations. In this regard, Pakistan will host a high level meeting on the theme of Islamophobia later this year. We are determined to carry this momentum forward. Given the divisions at the United Nations on this issue, progress in these efforts may be slow and uneven, but with determination and persistence, the Muslim countries will eventually prevail.
‘Over the last 75 years, Pakistan has made significant contributions to the principles and purposes of the UN Charter.’
Which other areas is our UN mission working on about building a positive image for Pakistan? Is our mission taking advantage about building Pakistan’s improved image as a country showing better economic indicators and being recognized as a preferred tourist destination?
At the UN, Pakistan has maintained a leadership position on all major economic and social issues including the implementation of the SDGs and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
We have taken initiatives to prevent illicit financial flows and upheld financial integrity standards. One recognition of our proactive role is Pakistan’s inclusion in the high-level panel on international financial accountability, transparency and integrity for achieving the 2030 Agenda, which has been jointly constituted by Presidents of the General Assembly and the ECOSOC.
Our role at the UN has been reinforced by the recent improvement in Pakistan’s economic indicators, such as ease of doing business (recognized by 2020 World Bank Report), reports indicating macro-economic stabilization and an increase in investments in Pakistan by 78% and increase in overall revenue deposits by 15%.
Pakistan has also taken a lead position on issues related to energy transition. It currently co-chairs the Group of Friends of Sustainable Energy for All and has proposed high-level dialogue on sustainable energy in 2021, which we may host in Pakistan.
Our Eco-System Restoration Initiative (ESRI), with the 10 Billion Tree Tsunami at its core, was introduced by the Prime Minister during the UN Secretary General’s Climate Action Summit in 2019. The initiative is widely recognized as one of the most ambitious programs launched during the Summit as part of Nature Based Solutions (NBS) to combat climate change.
‘The United Nations’ categorization of Islamabad as a family station is reflective of the improved security situation and better economic indicators in Pakistan.’
Our leadership position on information and communication technologies is promoting tax reforms in many countries for equitable sharing of revenues generated from digital transactions. Our presence in ECOSOC as vice-president has also placed us at the center of the international discourse on social and economic issues and enabled us to highlight Pakistan’s priorities.
Importantly, as I mentioned earlier, the United Nations’ categorization of Islamabad as a family station is truly reflective of the improved security situation and better economic indicators in Pakistan. We understand that following the UN recognition, other countries would follow suit in revising their negative travel advisories on Pakistan which would provide a huge boost to tourism and investment in Pakistan.
Does the US-China rivalry pose any problems for us at the UN since both countries are Pakistan’s friends?
I think those who ascribe a zero-sum nature to Pakistan's relations with China and United States of America, should recall the history of our relationship with both countries which would certainly help to invalidate this flawed notion. Pakistan played a central role in one of the most dramatic episodes of the Cold War - the opening to China by President Nixon - because it enjoyed good relations with both China and the United States.
Pakistan hopes to play a similar role in the future if needed and to maintain good relations with both powers even if the two are engaged in a competitive relationship. Pakistan’s desire to have close cooperation with both China and the US stems from the imperative to reinforce our economic development and foster regional peace, progress, and prosperity. We seek a positive synergy which we believe to be a stabilizing factor for the region.
Pakistan has always played a positive role regarding Afghanistan. Do countries at the UN recognize this?
Pakistan has long held the view that there is no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan. Recently, the international community, including the US, has accepted this position. Pakistan has extended all possible support and facilitation for the Afghan peace and reconciliation process.
Our efforts have been pivotal for the advancement of the US-Taliban talks. We are pleased with the resumption of negotiations and hope that these will conclude soon. In the next phase the Afghan parties will need to renegotiate the path to sustainable peace in Afghanistan. Pakistan will continue to play a facilitative role as part of its shared responsibility because a peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan is in our national interest. Pakistan’s role is widely recognized and appreciated. Of course, there are “spoilers” in our region, especially India, which does not want peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan since it is utilizing Afghan territory to foment terrorist attacks against Pakistan.
About Munir Akram
Munir Akram is the Permanent Representative of Pakistan at the United Nations, New York. He previously served as Pakistan’s Ambassador and Permanent UN Representative in New York for six years between 2002 and 2008, after serving as Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva for seven years from 1995 to 2002. Between 1988-1992, Munir Akram was Pakistan’s Ambassador to the European Council, Belgium and Luxembourg. During his term at the United Nations, Munir Akram served twice as President of the Security Council in May 2003 and in May 2004; President of the Economic and Social Council in 2005; Chairman of the Group of 77 and China (developing countries) in 2007, and Facilitator on UN Administrative Reform in 2006. Among the positions he held in various intergovernmental organizations were: Member of the UN Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament; Chairman of the WTO Trade Policy Review Body and President of the Conference on Disarmament. Munir Akram joined the Foreign Service of Pakistan in 1967. He obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Law and a Master’s degree in Political Science from Karachi University. In recognition of his services, he was conferred the award of Hilal-i-Quaid-e-Azam by the President of Pakistan.
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