UNITED NATIONS - Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif Friday made a clarion call at the United Nations General Assembly for end to the American drone strikes in Pakistani tribal areas, saying they were in violation of international law and detrimental to “our resolve and efforts to eliminate extremism and terrorism from Pakistan”.
In a wide-ranging address, noted for its depth and sweep, he said Pakistan condemned terrorism ‘in all its forms and manifestations’ but the use of drone strikes could never be accepted as it was ‘a continued violation of our territorial integrity’. Pakistan also raised the drone issue at the UN Security Council on Thursday.
Reaffirming his commitment to regional peace, Premier Sharif also called on the United Nations to ensure full realisation of the right of the people of Jammu and Kashmir to self-determination. "The suffering of the people cannot be brushed under the carpet, because of power politics," he said in a sharp reference to the decades-old Kashmir dispute.
The prime minister also said he looks forward to meeting his Indian counterpart this weekend to make a “new beginning” in South Asia. At the same time, however, he asked the world body to "remain attentive" to the issue that has been the source of tension between the two nuclear neighbours.
"As in the past, Pakistan calls upon the international community to give an opportunity to the Kashmiris to decide their future peacefully, in accordance with the UN resolutions. The issue of Kashmir was presented to the Security Council in January 1948; and yet the issue remains unresolved after nearly seven decades".
On terrorism, he said Pakistan has suffered grievously at the hands of this scourge and is firmly opposed to all kinds of terror and it would also explore dialogue to end militancy at home. But, he underlined that the dialogue should not be seen as a tool of appeasement. Nawaz Sharif also reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to a stable Afghanistan.
About drones, he said, “The war against terrorism must be waged within the framework of international law. The use of armed drones in the border areas of Pakistan is a continued violation of our territorial integrity. It results in casualties of innocent civilians and is detrimental to our resolve and efforts to eliminate extremism and terrorism from Pakistan. I have urged the United States to cease these strikes, so that we could avert further casualties and suffering.”
He said, “I have an aspiration for regional peace and stability. I have shared this vision with leaders in our neighbourhood. Shortly after assuming office, I received a message of goodwill from the Prime Minister of India, Dr Manmohan Singh. I extended an invitation to him to engage with us to address all outstanding issues between our two countries. Prime Minister Singh’s response was positive.
Nawaz noted that Pakistan and India have “wasted massive resources in an arms race. We could have used those resources for the economic well-being of our people. We still have that opportunity. Pakistan and India can prosper together; and the entire region would benefit from our cooperation... We stand ready to re-engage with India in a substantive and purposeful dialogue.”
Prime Minister Sharif said he is looking forward to meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here in New York “to make a new beginning. “We have a solid basis to do that. We can build on the Lahore Accord signed in 1999, which contained a road map for the resolution of our differences through peaceful negotiations. I am committed to working for a peaceful and economically prosperous region. This is what our people want and this is what I have long aspired for.”
About Afghanistan, Nawaz told world leaders that he welcomed President Karzai in Islamabad last month and “we reaffirmed our shared goal of a peaceful, stable and united Afghanistan”. “I reassured him that we do not wish to interfere in Afghanistan’s internal affairs; nor do we have any favourites in that country.” Pakistan encourages United Nations’ efforts for the stabilisation of Afghanistan and “a manifestation of our solidarity with the Afghan people has been our willingness to host millions of Afghan refugees for many decades... We will work together for regional and economic cooperation”.
The Premier told the 193-member forum that Pakistan is a responsible nuclear power and qualifies for access to civilian nuclear technology to meet its growing energy needs. “We will continue to pursue the goals of disarmament and non-proliferation and adhere to Credible Minimum Deterrence policy without entering into an arms race. He said, as a mainstream partner in the global non-proliferation regime, Pakistan has impeccable credentials to join the multilateral export control regime, including the Nuclear Suppliers Group.
Talking about world peace, the PM said Islam is a religion of peace, compassion and brotherhood. “ Stereotyping of Muslims as extremists and terrorists must stop. Terrorism negates Islam’s humanistic outlook and noble values. Those who perpetrate terrorism are enemies of Muslims and Islam itself.” The PM also reiterated Pakistan’s support for the Palestinian people and for a recent agreement for Syrian chemical weapons under international control.