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Monday, September 28, 2020

Imran Khan's tantrum, much ado about nothing

Pakistan PM Imran Khan at UNGA in 2019 - Photo AFP

Imran Khan did not impress many with his speech at the UN General Assembly


Anybody would have mistaken Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s speech at the UN General Assembly as the one he delivered in 2019. Retrofitted with pandemic era phrases, Khan spelled out what was effectively an abridged version of last year’s rant on India.

The video broadcast beamed from Islamabad was framed against a flag festooned backdrop and a painting of Muhammad Ali Jinnah on the wall behind him. Khan sat at a desk amidst a haze of green coloured props and rattled off a bucket list of macro-level grievances.

Khan’s tantrum speech last Friday was no dif.ferent from last year’s wide swipe at the world, talking about “corrupt elites,” tree planting schemes, Islamophobia, RSS, Modi, Jammu and Kashmir, and then Kashmir again.

Ranting that India “sponsors Islamophobia,” he called India’s Hindu-nationalist government a sponsor of hatred and prejudice against Islam while denouncing its moves to cement control of Muslim-majority Kashmir.

Reiterating the threats of climate change posed by global warming, Khan lamented that his country is severely affected by the climate crisis. As part of its efforts to mitigate the impact of climate change, Pakistan will plant 10 billion trees over the next three years.

Hours later, an Indian diplomat turned the mirror on Pakistan after Khan concluded his speech at the UN -- dripping with vitriol -- and recalled its record of genocide committed during the brutal birth of Bangladesh in 1971.

Indian UN Mission’s First Secretary Mijito Vinito, a Nagaland-born diplomat, articulated his statement in response to the acclaimed cricketer and said: “The only crowning glory that this country [Pakistan] has had to show to the world for the last 70 years is terrorism, ethnic cleansing, majoritarian fundamentalism, and clandestine nuclear trade.”

The young diplomat, in a strongly-worded reply to Pakistan’s call to outlaw those who incite hate and violence, said that it left others wondering whether Khan was referring to himself. There was a ripple of mild laughter among the diplomats in the hall, as well as embarrassment for the friends of Pakistan.

In July, Imran Khan referred to the dreaded Al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden as a “martyr” in Pakistan’s parliament. A leaked intelligence document surfaced in the media, which detailed that UN-listed terrorists had received pensions from state coffers.

Recently, Khan in a telephonic tête-à-tête with Sheikh Hasina urged her opinion about Article 370 revoking the autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir. She quickly responded that the Kashmir issue is an “internal affair” of India. To stop Khan from dragging her into the discussion of the J&K issue again, she asked that Pakistan seek public apology for the war crimes committed in the Bangladesh Liberation War.

Well, most South Asian leaders are not in a mood to listen to Khan’s sugar-coated sermons for a peaceful solution to the J&K crisis.

Except few Muslim countries, no one seemed to lend their ears when he made frantic appeals that India must rescind Article 370 which granted special status to the state of J&K and end its military siege and other human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir.

First published in the Dhaka Tribune 28 September 2020

Saleem Samad is an independent journalist, media rights defender, recipient of Ashoka Fellowship and Hellman-Hammett Award. He can be reached at Twitter @saleemsamad

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