Recap: Pakistan at the United Nations General Assembly

The 74th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) wrapped up yesterday after two busy weeks of meetings, speeches, and sideline events. What was Pakistan’s overwhelming focus at this year’s United Nations General Assembly? Think mostly Kashmir, Kashmir, Kashmir.

On September 20, Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a sneak peak of PM Khan’s schedule ahead of the UN General Assembly, which stated that: “Overall, the centrality of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute would be emphasized through myriad engagements.” This proved to be the central theme of Pakistan’s UNGA attendance, with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan clearly stating in his address to the General Assembly Debate: “This is the reason why I specially came here. It is about what is happening in Kashmir.”

This speech was by far the most widely covered story in the news related to Pakistan at this year’s UN General Assembly. Extending well beyond the voluntary 15 minute time limit, Prime Minister Khan spent the first 24 minutes of his address discussing three urgent problems which he believes the international community must address: 1) climate change, 2) the problem of money laundering, tax havens, and wealthy elites who siphon dollars out of developing countries into developed countries, and 3) Islamophobia, which PM Khan blamed Western leaders for perpetuating ever since 9/11. PM Khan then dedicated the next 26 minutes to the “number fourth point...the most critical point” -- Pakistan’s dispute with India over Kashmir. In his speech, he alluded to the possibility of nuclear war between India and Pakistan and warned of a looming “blood bath” in Kashmir. Meanwhile, thousands of protestors stood outside the UN headquarters in New York and dozens of Kashmiris from the city of Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir listened in on PM Khan’s address from the other side of the world.

But aside from this single speech, which received a disproportionate amount of media attention, PM Khan and the Pakistan delegation kept a dizzying schedule at this year’s United Nations General Assembly. Prime Minister Khan spoke at the High Level Dialogue on Financing for Development at the UN in New York, where he argued that plundered developing countries need more resources and legal assistance to prevent money laundering by corrupt, wealthy elites. He also delivered remarks at the UN Climate Action Summit on September 23, where he discussed Pakistan’s vulnerability to climate change and warned about the rapidly-melting Hindu Kush and Himalayan glaciers. In his address, he said that Pakistan has planted 1.1 billion trees in the last five years, and announced that the country has committed to planting 10 billion more trees in the next 5 years as part of its ‘Eco-System Restoration Initiative.’

Additionally, Prime Minister Khan spoke with heads of human rights organizations, foreign officials, and world leaders on the sidelines of the event, including:

On September 23: 1) Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, 2) Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, 3) Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, 4) U.S. President Donald Trump (who offered to mediate the J&K dispute), 5) Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, 6) UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, 7) U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad, 8) U.S. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, 9) delegations of Kashmiri leaders from both India and Pakistan, 10) Secretary General of Amnesty International, Komi Naidoo;

On September 24: 12) New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, 13) Ethiopia’s President Sahle-Work Zewde;

On September 25: 14) Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Bin Mohamad, 15) Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg.

On September 26: 16) Indonesia’s Vice President Muhammad Jusuf Kalla, 17) Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahmat, 18) Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Finally, on September 27, 19) PM Khan met with Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi was highly engaged at this year’s UNGA too.

On September 23: Foreign Minister Qureshi: 1) spoke with President and CEO of the International Crisis Group Robert Malley and 2) sent a letter to the UN Secretary-General and President of the UN Security Council to outline Pakistan’s legal case in the Kashmir dispute.

On September 24: Foreign Minister Qureshi met with: 3) the UAE’s Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi, 4) Ireland’s Foreign Minister Simon Coveney, 5) Cote d'Ivoire’s Foreign Minister Marcel Amon-Tanoh, 6) Estonia’s Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu, 7) Iran’s Foreign Minister Jawad Zarif, 8) Saint Vincent and the Grenadines' Foreign Minister Sir Louis Hilton Straker;

On September 25: 9) Kazakhstan’s Foreign Minister Atamkulov Beibut Bakirovich;

On September 26: 10) President of the 74th Session of the UN General Assembly Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, 11) the UK's Minister of State for the Commonwealth & the United Nations Lord Tariq Ahmad, 12) Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Khalid Bin Ahmed Bin Mohammed Al Khalifa, 13) Argentina’s Foreign Minister Jorge Marcelo Faurie.

In nearly all of these meetings, PM Khan and Foreign Minister Qureshi specifically raised the Kashmir issue, calling for pressure on India to lift the curfew on Kashmiris, demilitarize the region, and join Pakistan at the UN negotiating table to solve the dispute. Click here to read an archive of summaries of these engagements from Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry of Affairs. 

To top it all off, PM Khan held a press conference at the UN General Assembly, participated in events with the Council on Foreign Relations and the Asia Society. He interviewed with multiple media outlets, including MSNBC, CNN, and the New York Times, where he decried India’s role in Kashmir. Additionally, PM Khan participated in an event co-hosted by Turkey’s President Erdogan, where both leaders called for additional measures to curb the spread of Islamophobia and hate speech. Prime Minister Khan also co-hosted an event with Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad to build international support for addressing climate change, fighting poverty, and implementing the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Elsewhere, Foreign Minister Qureshi participated in the 10th Ministerial Meeting of the Group of Friends and attended the GCC-Pakistan Joint Ministerial Meeting, where he raised the Kashmir issue. He also spoke at the United Nations Security Council's Ministerial Debate to condemn terrorism, and later in the day led a Pakistan delegation to meet with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation Contact Group on Jammu and Kashmir. The Contact Group adopted a Joint Communiqué deploring the current conditions in Kashmir and calling on India to “rescind its unilateral illegal actions and reiterate its commitment to abide by the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions.”

After an eventful week, Prime Minister Khan departed on a scheduled flight to Riyadh, but ended up making an emergency landing in New York, and finally left on a commercial flight after his Saudi-gifted jet experienced technical problems. A busy week indeed for Pakistan -- and Kashmir too.

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