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Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan (file photo)
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan (file photo)

Imran Khan Niazi's failed 'Mission Kashmir'

By Tilak Devasher | Updated: Sep 30, 2019 20:23 IST

New Delhi [India], Sept 30 (ANI): Pakistan's permanent representative to the UN, Maleeha Lodhi, termed Imran Khan Niazi's visit to the USA as 'Mission Kashmir'. The 'Mission' peaked with Imran Khan's address at the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on September 27.
The address, however, was a repetitive rehash of what he had been saying on Kashmir for the past two months - 'bloodbath' when the curfew is lifted, another Pulwama-type attack, further radicalisation of the Kashmiris, 180 million Indian Muslims and 1.3 billion Muslims in the world, a conventional war that could escalate into a nuclear holocaust and so on.
India's rebuttal was sharp and to the point. It took Indian First Secretary Vidisha Maitra just a few minutes to demolish Imran Khan's venomous fifty-minute rant, calling his assertions as 'brinkmanship, not statesmanship'. She underlined 'Citizens of India do not need anyone else to speak on their behalf, least of all those who have built an industry of terrorism from the ideology of hate'. She noted aptly that attempts to sharpen differences and stir up hatred were 'hate speech' and that 'rarely had the General Assembly witnessed such misuse, rather abuse, of an opportunity to reflect'.
Her parting shot was to put Pakistan on notice for its treatment of religious and ethnic minorities and specifically mentioned Shias, Pashtuns, Sindhis and Baloch being subjected to systematic persecution and blatant abuse.
Even Alice Wells, the US Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia chastised Imran Khan saying his comments were unhelpful: "A lowering of rhetoric would be welcome, especially between two nuclear powers." She also raised the obvious question why Imran was not speaking out about China that had detained an estimated one million Muslim Uighurs 'literally in concentration-like conditions'.
Imran Khan was acutely aware that he was attending the UNGA against the backdrop of Pakistan's failure to muster the required 16 votes to get a discussion on Kashmir in the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva before the September 19 deadline. This was despite claiming that 58 countries, falsely as it turned out, were supporting Pakistan.
Imran Khan was also representing not only a bankrupt country that has been desperately begging for doles and bailouts bilaterally and multi-laterally but a deeply polarised one. His government has targeted leaders of the main opposition parties - Nawaz Sharif and Asif Zardari, both of whom were behind bars together with a host of other leaders.
The sword of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) also dangles on Pakistan since a determination will be made about it being placed in the 'blacklist' in October. Already the FATF affiliate, the Asia Pacific Group (APG), has placed Pakistan on the Enhanced Expedited Follow-Up list for failure to comply with international standards of Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT).
Even before he spoke at the UNGA, Imran Khan was forced to admit the failure of "Mission Kashmir". He told a press conference on September 25: "To be absolutely frank, I am a bit disappointed by the international community," adding that the reaction would have been different and more urgent had it been 8 million Europeans who had been put under siege or Jewish people or Americans -- it would have been different if there were just eight Americans. He lamented, "What options do we have? What do we do?"
Imran realised that he had been under the mistaken impression that the Islamic world would back his narrative on reversing the constitutional changes in Kashmir and the western powers would zero in on alleged human rights violations. Barring symbolic statements neither has happened while the underlying message has been that the matter should be resolved bilaterally.
To mask the obvious failure and the fact that he had thrown in the towel, Imran Khan did what he is best at doing - imagining that he was an opposition leader on a container in Islamabad. His use of war rhetoric and incitement to violence was to signal to audiences back home that he was indeed the ambassador of Kashmir. After all he needed an insurance policy to ensure his safe return to Pakistan and to be able to face Army Chief General Bajwa.
Unfortunately for him, the platform of the UNGA is not quite a container from where passions can be inflamed. It is a sober and august venue where leaders come together to showcase their vision for the world and the future path of their countries. His advocacy of violence, threatening war and a nuclear holocaust repeatedly was an egregious violation of the sanctity of the UNGA.
Interestingly, in the speech itself, he scaled down expectations by asking for a removal of the lockdown. This contrasted with his August 30 article in The New York Times wherein he had demanded that 'India reverses its illegal annexation of Kashmir, ends the curfew and lockdown, and withdraws its troops to the barracks'. Between August 30 and September 27, Imran Khan had clearly sensed the international apathy and realised that India was not reversing anything.
All Pakistan could do in the end was to resort to gimmicks. Thus Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi boycotted the speech of Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar at the SAARC Council of Ministers meeting in New York. The News quoted him telling reporters: "It is not possible for me to sit with the murderer of Kashmiris." Such a nasty comment has certainly queered the pitch for any bilateral dialogue between the two ministers for the foreseeable future. Not that India will be losing any sleep over it.
Imran Khan had two choices before him when he addressed the UNGA for the first time. He could either have taken the high road to make a positive pitch about his idea for Pakistan as a responsible member of the international community or taken the low road to spew hatred, threaten aggression and incite violence. By choosing the latter, Imran Khan may have won momentary brownie points at home but he has only reinforced the violent and regressive image of Pakistan and thus lost a rare opportunity to change it.
Tilak Devasher is Member, National Security Advisory Board
(Disclaimer: The views expressed in this column are strictly those of the author) (ANI)