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ISLAMABAD: Foreign Office, on Thursday, called it “doublespeak” and “double standards” of US President Joe Biden, while skipping a mention of oppressed Indian minorities and mentioning Xinjiang and Northern Ethiopia by calling nations to condemn oppression of religious and ethnic minorities in his address to the UN General Assembly session.

The response of the government of Pakistan about the US president’s address to the UNGA comes during the weekly media briefing by Foreign Office spokesperson Asim Iftikhar Ahmad.

When his comments were sought on President’s Biden address to the UNGA session, in which he asked the countries to call out and condemn oppression of religious and ethnic minorities by mentioning Xinjiang and Northern Ethiopia, but failed to mention Kashmir or the religious minorities in India, the spokesperson agreed with the observations and stated that human rights have to be respected without any distinction or political motives.

“I think your observation is valid. This is something that is unfortunately not new; and this is what you call “doublespeak” and “double standards”. We have consistently maintained that human rights have to be respected and upheld universally, without any distinction or political motives,” he said. To another question about a complaint filed by a Sikh organisation in a US district court against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for killing Sikhs amid recent protests by the farmers, he said that it is reflective of concerns on the overall state of affairs in India, particularly, with regards to the treatment meted out to the minorities.

“While this has been a longstanding problem in India, but ever since BJP’s coming into power, Indian religious minorities in particular, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, and others are being specifically targeted and facing discriminatory treatment. It is a matter of serious concern not only for India’s neighbours but also for the international community,” he said.

He said that Pakistan has been consistently sensitizing the international community and voicing its concerns over the human rights violations in India.

However, he added that it is encouraging to note that the rising tide of religious bigotry in India is being documented by international human rights organisations, regularly highlighted by the international media, and raised in various forums. “The international community must hold India to account and impress upon it to respect the rights of its minorities,” he added.

On the visits for religious purposes, he said that Pakistan’s position has been consistent, open and transparent. “Despite a difficult relationship with India, Prime Minister Imran Khan went ahead with the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor, which reflected our continued commitment to facilitate Sikh pilgrims. Our approach is also in line with the government’s efforts to promote religious tourism. We expect India to reciprocate,” he added.

When asked as to which country is leading the regional efforts given Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recent statement that Pakistan is part of the region and “we will recognize the Taliban government based on the collective decision by the regional countries”, he said that it was not important as to who is leading these efforts.

“More important is the need for continued engagement especially of the regional countries. It is all about coordination and consultation,” he said, adding that the regional countries have shared concerns and interest vis-a-vis the developments in Afghanistan.

As for Pakistan, he added that we will continue this process of engagement and mutual consultations to make our contribution towards a peaceful, stable and sovereign Afghanistan.

To another query about Taliban government’s recent letter to the UN secretary general to seek an opportunity to participate in the ongoing UNGA session, he said that the request has been made by the Afghan interim government to the UN.

He said that there is a procedure in the UNGA under which, the Credentials Committee considers such requests.

“We have been advising the international community that keeping in view the ground realities and the humanitarian situation, the international community should engage with the interim government in a constructive manner. We believe that positive engagement with Afghanistan is important to ensure lasting peace and security in the region and beyond,” he added.

About the security concerns expressed by New Zealand and the UK which led to the cancellation of the cricket series with both the countries, he said: “We are obviously disappointed to note the unilateral decisions by both. We have conveyed our concerns and have also asked them to share with us the intelligence they have.” “It is not understandable and is indeed ironic that a few weeks ago with that chaotic situation in Afghanistan, requests were pouring in seeking Pakistan’s assistance in evacuation process from Afghanistan. Now, when the situation was even better, such decision was unfortunate. Such matters can be dealt with in a better manner,” he lamented. About the UNGA session, he said that Prime Minister Imran Khan will address the session virtually today (Friday) afternoon New York Time, in which, he will present Pakistan’s perspective on various regional and international issues.

He said that Jammu and Kashmir will be one of the key areas of focus, besides the situation in Afghanistan, and other areas of common concern including combating Islamophobia, corruption and illicit financial flows, as well as climate change.

He said that Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi is in New York and has a packed schedule.

He said that the foreign minister had a talk at the Council on Foreign Relations, has attended various high-level meetings including the D-8 Ministerial, has had bilateral meetings with UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and his counterparts from Egypt, Portugal, Norway, Ireland, EU High Representative, Qatar, Austria, and Slovenia, besides engagements with the media and the dynamic Pakistani-American community.

He said that multiple engagements are lined up including the OIC Contact Group on Jammu and Kashmir, Uniting for Consensus Ministerial Meeting, meetings with the UN Secretary-General and the President of the UNGA, and other bilateral and media engagements.

During these interactions, he said that the foreign minister has been underlining the need for collective action and multilateral cooperation to effectively address common challenges.

Given the current regional situation, international interest, and Pakistan’s active engagement, Afghanistan has been a central theme in all these engagements, he added.

He said that Pakistan will also be participating actively in the UNGA Plenary and its main committees over the coming weeks.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021


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