NEW YORK, Sept 27 (WNP): Prime Minister Imran Khan minced no words in warning the world on Friday that Pakistan, if pushed into a war with India, will not surrender but will “fight for freedom till death”.
In his maiden speech at the UN General Assembly, the prime minister also warned the world not to push Muslims, particularly Kashmiris, to the wall because when marginalised, people get radicalised.
“If a conventional war starts between the two countries, anything could happen. But supposing a country seven times smaller than its neighbour is faced with the choice: either you surrender, or you fight for your freedom till death?” Mr Khan said. “What will we do? I ask myself these questions. We will fight… and when a nuclear-armed country fights to the end, it will have consequences far beyond the borders.”
The prime minister, who spoke extempore for almost an hour, used a combination of reason, emotions and appeal to convey his message: India’s Aug 5 decision to annex Kashmir could have dangerous consequences for all.
“It is not a threat. It is a fair worry,” he said, reminding the United Nations that it’s this organisation that guaranteed Kashmiris their right to self-determination and now was the time to deliver, “not to appease” India.
The speech, which contained an intense criticism of India for its actions in occupied Kashmir and for targeting the Indian Muslim community, followed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech to the UNGA. Mr Modi, who was the fourth speaker of the day, asked the international community, including Pakistan, to “focus your anger on terrorism”.
In his maiden speech at UN General Assembly, Imran says India’s decision to annex held valley could have dangerous consequences for all
Prime Minister Khan, who was the seventh speaker of the day, however, advised India to act immediately to ease the restrictions imposed on eight million Kashmiris. “Number one, India must lift this curfew, which has gone on for more than 50 days,” he said, “and it must free all prisoners, especially 13,000 boys whose families do not know where they disappeared”.
And then “the world community must give the people of Kashmir their right to self-determination”, he added.
The prime minister warned that India was planning a ‘bloodbath’ in Kashmir and Indian armed forces would turn their guns on the population after the curfew was lifted. This “bloodbath” in Kashmir, he said, could lead to an India-Pakistan war, which could eventually escalate into an all-out nuclear war.
Kashmir has been under lockdown since India revoked its autonomy on Aug 5 which, Mr Khan said, was only increasing the anger and frustration of the Kashmiri people. “There are 900,000 troops there; they haven’t come, as Narendra Modi says — for the prosperity of Kashmir… These 900,000 troops, what are they going to do? When they (people) come out when the curfew is lifted? There will be a bloodbath,” he warned.
The prime minister also said that there could be a repeat of the fighting between the nuclear-armed neighbours if India used the pretext of terrorism to launch attacks inside Pakistan, as it did in February.
He recalled that the Pulwama bombing in February was carried out by a local Kashmiri who was radicalised inside Kashmir, but New Delhi blamed Pakistan. “We asked for proof (of Pakistan’s involvement). Instead of proofs, they sent bombers,” Mr Khan said, adding that a similar attack now could have very dangerous consequences.
The Indian prime minister, who spoke earlier, did not explicitly mention Kashmir, but he did make an oblique reference to Pakistan, blaming it for India’s actions in Kashmir.
Mr Khan said that India could use this as an excuse to start a war with Pakistan. He said it was wrong to blame Pakistan, Islam or Muslims for terrorism as no religion preached radicalism. He described this blame-game as Islamophobia, which was creating divisions among nations and communities.
“There are 1.3 billion Muslims in this world. Millions of Muslims are living in the US and European countries as minorities. Islamophobia, since 9/11 has grown at an alarming pace,” he said. “Human communities are supposed to live together with understanding among each other, but Islamophobia is creating a division.”
The prime minister warned that the situation had reached a stage where in some places Muslims feared practising their religious obligations. “Muslim women wearing hijab have become an issue in some countries, as if a hijab is some kind of weapon! This is happening because of Islamophobia,” he said.
Mr Khan said that after the 9/11 attack, “Islamophobia grew at an alarming rate. Why did it start? Because certain western leaders equated terrorism with Islam, calling it Islamic terrorism and radical Islam. What is radical Islam? There is only one Islam”, and it’s not terrorist. “This Islamic radicalism has been the main reason behind Islamophobia. This has caused pain to Muslims.”
This fearmongering, he said, was leading to radicalisation, making people end up as militants in Syria and other nations. “No religion preaches radicalism. The basis of all religions is compassion and justice,” Mr Khan said.
He noted that before 9/11 majority of suicide attacks in the world were carried out by Tamil Tigers who were Hindus. “No one blamed Hinduism. And it’s quite right. What has Hinduism got to do with what desperate people were doing in Sri Lanka?” Mr Khan asked.
He said that there’s a misunderstanding in the West regarding Islam, causing Islamophobia across the globe.
Although Kashmir was the last item on the prime minister’s four-point agenda, it took most of his time.
India, he said, did not respond to Pakistan’s overtures following Mr Modi’s re-election as prime minister because it was trying to push Pakistan into the blacklist of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to bankrupt the country.
“That’s when we realised that there was an agenda and that agenda became obvious on the 5th of August when India went against 11 United Nations Security Council resolutions which say that Kashmir is a disputed territory and the people of Kashmir have the right of self-determination,” he said.
“They went against the Simla accord — which is about sorting out our differences through bilateral means. They actually went against the Indian Constitution” and revoked Article 370 which gave Kashmir a special status, he said.
Mr Khan said that India now had some 900,000 and they put eight million people of occupied Kashmir under curfew. “What kind of people bring in 900,000 troops for eight million people?” he asked.
“It is arrogance that has blinded Modi. Has he thought about what will happen after the curfew in Kashmir is lifted? What will he do? Does he think the people of Kashmir will quietly accept the status quo?”
The prime minister then explained what he thinks will happen. “What is going to happen will be a bloodbath. The people will come out. Has anyone thought what happens when there is a bloodbath? What will the people do then? [They will] take to the streets. The soldiers will then shoot them. They have already used pellet guns.
“And so, Kashmiris will be further radicalised. There will be another Pulwama. And they (India) will blame us. They are already blaming us. They said we have 500 terrorists lined up to go in. Why would we send 500 terrorists when there are 900,000 troops?
“There will only be further cruelty on Kashmiris. It will give them the excuse to chant on the mantra of Islamic terrorism. “The whole world then turns away. How do we (Pakistan) benefit from further increasing cruelty on the people of Kashmir?”
Prime Minister Imran said that there’s no other narrative left for India. “Whatever happens we will be blamed. What does Modi think the 180 million Muslims of India are thinking? Aren’t they watching these Kashmiris stuck in? Don’t you think they too will be radicalised? Then there will be blame on us again,” he said.
“What about the 1.3bn Muslims watching this who know this is only happening because they are Muslims? What do you think they would think? Among the 1.3bn (Muslims), someone will pick up arms,” he said, citing the analogy of a Hollywood film. “Muslims will become radicals because of this, not because of Islam. Because they see no justice. I have pictured myself locked up for 55 days. There are rapes, soldiers going into rooms. Would I want to let this humiliation continue? I would pick up a gun,” he added.