UNITED NATIONS: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif left New York on Friday after five days of extensive lobbying for Kashmir at the United Nations and in bilateral meetings with world leaders.
According to an official of the prime minister’s media team, he will arrive home on Monday morning after spending the weekend in London, where one of his two sons resides on a permanent basis and has business interests.
Mr Sharif’s meetings in New York did highlight the Kashmir cause, but not as much as they would have, had there had been no Sept 18 attack on an Indian army base in Uri which apparently was carried out by elements within the India-held region.
Before the attack, prominent newspapers and television channels in the United States did a series of reports and articles on Kashmir, pointing out that Indian forces had killed more than 100 people and injured thousands in their efforts to suppress a peaceful civilian uprising.
After the Uri attack, however, the focus shifted to militancy and the possibility of a war between Pakistan and India.
The warnings about a possible war between the two neighbours strengthen Pakistan’s argument that the Kashmir issue, if left unresolved, could cause a nuclear conflict in the region.
But the focus on militancy had a negative impact on the country’s efforts to show the world that the people of Kashmir were engaged in a peaceful struggle for their right to self-determination promised to them by the UN Security Council in 1948.
Pakistan’s position was reflected strongly in a statement of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation which not only condemned the Indian atrocities but also emphasised the need for giving the Kashmiri people the right to decide about their future.
In separate meetings with Prime Minister Sharif, other Muslim leaders also emphasised the two points, while Turkey announced its intention to send a fact-finding mission to the India-held region.
The UN Human Rights Council’s pledge to send a similar delegation also echoed at the General Assembly and Pakistan invited it to send the team to Azad Kashmir to expose India’s claims about that part of the region.
Pakistan’s campaign to draw the world’s attention to the situation in India-held Kashmir also reflected in the US State Department’s statement on the issue, but only partially.
The department recognised the Kashmir issue as a bilateral dispute between Pakistan and India, rejecting the Indian claim that it was an internal issue.
But it also urged Pakistan to cooperate with India in investigating the Sept 18 ‘terrorist attack’ and to take immediate steps against ‘externally focused’ groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed.
“The United States is committed to our strong partnership with the Indian government to combat terrorism,” the statement said.
Asked if the US had been in contact with the governments of Pakistan and India for defusing tensions between them, a State Department spokesperson said Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken had spoken with Indian Foreign Secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, “expressed our condolences for the victims of the attack and their families, and offered assistance with the investigation”.
The spokesperson said US Secretary of State John Kerry had met Prime Minister Sharif at the UN and discussed the Uri incident. “The secretary urged Pakistani cooperation in the investigation,” the US official added.
The official added: “We encourage India and Pakistan to continue to engage in direct dialogue aimed at reducing tensions.”
Meanwhile, an opposition lawmaker said the prime minister should have straightway headed back to the country at a time when India was busy in warmongering.
Invariably, whenever the prime minister has travelled to Europe or North America, he would spend some time in London at the much talked-about Park Lane apartments across the Hyde Park, owned by his son.
The London flats of the Sharif family came into limelight following the Panama Papers leaks about offshore wealth and the opposition is pushing to get investigated through a commission the details of their purchase.
Khawar Ghumman in Islamabad contributed to this report
Published in Dawn September 24th, 2016