NEW YORK: Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif on Friday reminded the world community that it was their responsibility to resolve the Kashmir dispute in accordance with the wishes of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. “We cannot draw a veil on the issue of Kashmir until it is addressed in accordance with the wishes of the people of Jammu and Kashmir,” the prime minister said while addressing the United Nations General Assembly. Nawaz Sharif said Pakistan was ready to work with India for the resolution of this problem through negotiations. “Our support and advocacy of the right to self-determination of the people of Jammu and Kashmir is our historic commitment and a duty as a party to the Kashmir dispute,” he said.
The prime minister recalled that more than six decades ago, the United Nations passed resolutions to hold a plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir. He said the people of Jammu and Kashmir are still waiting for the fulfilment of that promise. “Many generations of Kashmiris have lived their lives under occupation, accompanied by violence and abuse of their fundamental rights. Kashmiri women, in particular, have undergone immense suffering and humiliation. For decades, attempts have been made, both under the UN auspices and bilaterally in the spirit of the Lahore Declaration, to resolve this dispute,” the prime minister said.
Nawaz said in South Asia, people have missed opportunities for prosperity because of unresolved conflicts. “We have a choice today: Continue with the status quo or to seize the moment to resolve all outstanding issues and free up our shared energies for cooperation. To take this course of high statesmanship, we need more, not less, dialogue and diplomacy. We need to respect each other’s rights and sensibilities. We must have relationships based on equality, mutual respect and transparency,” he said.
Nawaz said Pakistan was disappointed at the cancellation of the foreign secretary-level talks with India. “The world community, too, rightly saw itas another missed opportunity,” he regretted. “Pakistan is convinced that we must remain engaged in the dialogue process for settling disputes and building economic and trade relations. Let us not ignore the dividends of peace,” he added.
Referring to Afghanistan issue, Nawaz said that Afghanistan is going through momentous security, political and economic transitions. As always, he said, Pakistan stands in solidarity with the fraternal Afghan people. “I congratulate the people of Afghanistan over the successful completion of the electoral process and offer our warm felicitations and good wishes to the new Afghan leadership. It is our earnest hope that these landmark processes would culminate in the emergence of a stronger, more stable, and unified Afghanistan. We also hope that the process of inclusive Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation would move forward, contributing to greater harmony, stability and prosperity in Afghanistan,” he said.
Nawaz said Pakistan remains committed to forging a deeper bilateral relationship with Afghanistan on the basis of equal security and shared prosperity. “Pakistan continues to host, for the past 30 years, millions of Afghan refugees on its soil. This is the largest refugee caseload in the world. The international community must maintain and enhance support for the repatriation of these refugees and provide for their reintegration in Afghanistan,” he said.
Referring to drug trafficking, Nawaz said it was important to pursue a comprehensive approach to eliminate poppy cultivation, reinforce border security and interdict criminals. “Pakistan is mainly a victim of drugs transit and trafficking. Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan and other states in the region, together with the UN, should step up their efforts to fight this menace,” he said.
Throwing light on efforts for eradication of terrorism, the premier said that Pakistan was committed to eliminate terrorism. Nawaz said that Pakistan condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. “We are fighting terrorism planted on Pakistan’s soil. Our valiant soldiers are laying down their lives to take out terrorists and tear down their evil networks. The entire nation is behind them. In the past thirteen years, as a frontline state, we have given enormous sacrifices in blood and resources,” he said. The premier said over 50,000 people have lost their lives and thousands have suffered serious injuries. “Our economy has lost hundreds of billions of dollars in direct costs and denied investment opportunities,” he said.
“Yet, in this fight, each time a soldier falls, another takes his place proudly. It is the resolve of our nation to fight this scourge to the finish. At the same time, we have made a plan of action for the relief and rehabilitation of nearly one million internally dislocated persons. This includes a strategy to prevent return and resurgence of militancy and creation of a safe environment for the local population,” he said.
The prime minister said that it is important to counter the narrative of extremists. “Inter-racial tensions and defamation of religions provide fertile ground for conflict. Constructive and serious dialogue among religions is essential to promote understanding, tolerance and harmony. We remain committed to the UN-led efforts to support these objectives,” he said.
He said that Pakistan’s strong commitment to peacekeeping is rooted in its foreign policy and belief that every nation should contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security. Inspired by this ideal, Pakistan has maintained high levels of participation in the UN peacekeeping, becoming the largest troop contributing country. We are contributing more than 1,100 troops to the Central African Republic, despite the dire situation there,” the premier said.
He said that as a responsible nuclear weapon state, Pakistan will continue to support the objectives of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation; and pursue a policy of nuclear restraint and credible minimum deterrence. “Pakistan is not participating in any arms race in the region. Yet we cannot be oblivious to the emerging security scenarios and build up of armaments. We too, have the obligation to maintain a robust and reliable deterrence,” he added.
Nawaz said that Pakistan has maintained the highest standards of nuclear safety and security. “At the last Summit at The Hague that I attended, Pakistan’s recent nuclear measures, especially the establishment of a Centre of Excellence, were appreciated,” he said.
He said Pakistan has a stringent national export control system that is fully harmonised with international export control regimes. “Though a non-member, we are abiding by their guidelines,” he said.
“Pakistan ought to be a part of these export control regimes, especially the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Pakistan also qualifies for full access to civil nuclear technology, to overcome its energy shortages and spur economic growth,” he said.
The prime minister said the ongoing UN reform must be comprehensive. “We support a reform of the Security Council that would reflect the interests of all members’ states — small, medium-sized and large — and not the ambitions of a few. There should be no new permanent seats in the Council. This will be contrary to the democratic character of this world body. We want the Council to become more representative, equitable, accountable and transparent. We meet here today on the cusp of a new era for the international community. Never before has the United Nations embraced such lofty goals to banish poverty, stimulate development, protect environment and foster peace, as it will during this session,” he said. “The future of our planet hinges on our decisions. Let us deliver them with full responsibility and wisdom. Pakistan will assist this Assembly and the United Nations as a whole, to make this world a better place for all mankind,” he added.
He said complementary counter-terrorism measures on the Afghan side of the border are essential to achieve optimal results. About climate change, the prime minister said extreme weather patterns were disrupting world economies. “In Pakistan, we have directly experienced such a calamity only recently. The monsoon floods in Pakistan have killed hundreds of people, displaced millions, destroyed and damaged homes, livelihoods, infrastructure, cattle and crops. We are mobilising all our resources and ingenuity to provide relief and to ensure recovery. The international community should intensify its efforts to move from awareness to commitments to actions on climate change, which is playing havoc with the economies, particularly in the developing countries,” he said.
Nawaz said that this is a defining moment for the United Nations, as it embarks on the task of transforming the lives of billions of people, by investing in sustainable development in the next fifteen years. “We are setting ourselves a vital target of eradicating poverty by 2030. To do that, we need to go beyond the Millennium Development Goals. We need a new approach to eliminate conflict and violence and reduce inequality within and among nations,” he said.
Revealing his government plans, Nawaz said that at the national level, the government has launched Vision 2025, which puts people first. “This is inspired by our founding father, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s vision of a welfare state, based on the principles of justice, equity and responsibility,” he said.
He said in the coming decade Pakistan will develop human and social capital through investment in education, health and gender parity; stimulate sustained economic growth; prioritise energy, water and food security; modernise public sector, and encourage private sector-led entrepreneurship. “We have determined that regional peace and security, political stability in the country, the rule of law and social justice are absolutely crucial for the realisation of these goals. Above all, we will continue to work for the promotion and protection of human rights,” he said.
The prime minister said energy is key to economic development. “Pakistan co-chairs the Group of Friends of UN secretary general’s initiative on sustainable energy for all. The objectives of this initiative are also our national goals. It is my government’s aspiration and effort to build a peaceful neighbourhood by pursuing a policy of constructive engagement,” he said.
Talking about Palestine issue, the prime minister said this past summer, the people of Gaza were subjected to mass atrocities by Israel. “We condemn the indiscriminate killings of civilians – which amounted to genocide. From this platform, I once again convey Pakistan’s condolences and sympathies to the people of Palestine over their continuing plight,” he said.
“We welcome the ceasefire between Gaza and Israel. But next steps must also be taken. The blockade of Gaza must be lifted, Palestinian prisoners freed and illegal settlements halted. The United Nations should facilitate a just and lasting solution of the Palestinian issue, based on the relevant UN resolutions,” he added.
“We call on all parties in Syria to renounce military and militant means and hold dialogue to restore peace and stability in their historic land,” he added. In the outset, the prime minister paid tribute to UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon for his efforts to find diplomatic solutions to complex challenges to international peace and security.