UNITED NATION: Pakistan`s Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has admitted that Islamabad has been unable to get Kashmir to the “centre” of the UN agenda and India`s diplomacy is able to scuttle its efforts. “We face a particularly uphill task to try and get Kashmir onto the centre of the agenda at the United Nations,” he said on Friday at a news conference here.
New Delhi “strongly object vociferously object and they perpetuate a post facto narrative” to shut out Kashmir, he said. Pakistan stands virtually alone at the UN, raising the Kashmir issue whenever it speaks, whether it is about the status of women or Russia`s invasion of Ukraine, without relevance to the topic.
Besides Pakistan, Turkey was the only other country in the 193-member to mention Kashmir at last year`s high-level General Assembly meeting, but it was a muted reference by President Recip Tayyip Erdogan who said without any criticism of India that it was unfortunate that the problem persisted after 75 years and expressed hope for permanent peace.
The last time Kashmir got any attention at the Security Council was in 2019 soon after Kashmir`s special constitutional status was stripped away, and that was at a secret session convened at the behest of China and the members could not agree on any statement.
Reflecting the state of the attitude of Pakistan towards India, Bilawal stumbled in his attempts to refer to India, starting with “our friends within…” then trying “with our friend… our… our…” and then backtracking to settle on “our neighbouring countries”.
Verbatim, this is how his mangled acknowledgement of India`s diplomatic success in thwarting Pakistan`s efforts on Kashmir came out: “Whenever the issue of Kashmir is brought up, our friends within, with our friend, our… our… our neighbouring countries, strongly object vociferously object and they perpetuate a post facto narrative”.
“They try to claim that this is not a dispute for the United Nations, that this is not a disputed territory recognised by the international community, and they insist, counter to the facts, counter to the reality, that their usurpation of the of Kashmir should be endorsed,” he added.
About getting Islamabad`s version of “truth” about Kashmir accepted, he said, “While we do find it difficult to get the truth across, we are persistent in our efforts”.
India maintains that Kashmir and all disputes between the neighbours are bilateral matters under the 1972 Simla Agreement signed by Bilawal`s grandfather Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who was then Pakistan`s president, and India`s Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
At “every opportunity, be it at the UN Security Council, or at various events that I attend or address, or chair, I do make the effort not only to mention the hypocrisy when it comes to the plight of the people of Palestine, but also to focus on the difficulties faced by the people of Kashmir”, he said.
Whenever it can, Pakistan tries to twin Kashmir with Palestine. Bilawal made the comments in response to a Palestinian journalist`s question why when Palestine is at least being discussed and statements about it are made at the UN, Kashmir, which he said was another “occupied territory”, is being ignored.
He was at the UN to create an image of Pakistan as a modern Muslim nation by presiding over an international conference on “Women in Islam” that was held on Wednesday to coincide with International Women`s Day and the ongoing session of the Commission on the Status of Women.
“Islam was the first religion to give rights to women,” he said at the opening of the meeting and repeated it at the news conference. “Islam forbids injustice against women” and those who curtail women`s rights are going against the principles of Islam,” he said.
On the economic front, Bilawal said that terrorism has taken a toll on Pakistan. “Over the past year, a steady uptick in terrorist activity, but more recently significant terrorist attacks in Peshawar and in Karachi, of course, that too has an economic impact”, he said.
“Pakistan is facing a perfect storm of crises: The economic situation is nothing short of a disaster, for particularly for the bottom of the pyramid, the weakest the poorest in Pakistani society, those affected by the flooding,” he said.
He cited the impact of the Covid pandemic, the fallout of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the floods, which he said wiped out 10 per cent of the gross domestic product and the uncertainty created by the extended negotiations with the International Monetary Fund for a bailout.
Another factor was the economic impact of “the fall of Kabul”.
“The economic activity in an economically functioning state to our border a year ago collapsed and we`ve seen the nosedive of their economy which has the impact in the region”, he said.
Pakistan has “seen an increase of terrorist attacks since the fall of Kabul”, he said.
Bilawal said that his country was “positively engaged with the interim government in Afghanistan” because its failure would also adversely affect Pakistan.
“There`s a sort of famous saying that if Kabul sneezes and Pakistan catches a cold”, he said.
Asked about the criticism of Pakistan by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Bilawal admitted his country had failings and said that since it relies on the reports on Kashmir, “we will absolutely have to be willing, tolerant of any and all criticism that they may have of Pakistan`s record on human rights”.
He added, “I can`t stand here before you and say that Pakistan has an outstanding record on human rights, but I can say that there are political parties, civil society people across the length and breadth of Pakistan that have throughout our history struggled for and achieved quite a, you know, significant progress on the issue of human rights. But there`s a, there`s a long way to go”.