Prime Minister Imran Khan inaugurates the 24/7 Torkhan border crossing on Wednesday. — Photo courtesy PTI Twitter/File
PESHAWAR: Pledging to present the “Kashmir case” at the United Nations General Assembly “like no one ever did before”, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday said there was no use talking to India unless it lifted curfew and restored the special status of held Kashmir.
“To India’s misfortune, it has been taken over by extremist and racist Hindus. Only a person with an extremist mindset would do what they have done in Kashmir by keeping it under curfew for 45 days,” he said at a presser after inaugurating the Integrated Transit Trade Management System at the Pak-Afghan border.
Torkham, located 55km northwest of here, serves as one of the major border crossings with Afghanistan. The new management system has allowed for round-the-clock trade and immigration facilities at the border crossing.
“I consider this to be a very historic day,” said Mr Khan, who was the first elected prime minister ever to visit the border crossing at Torkham.
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi accompanied the prime minister. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Mahmood Khan and Governor Shah Farman received PM Khan at the helipad in Torkham.
The Governor of Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province, Hayatullah Hayat, had driven to Torkham on special invitation to attend the ceremony.
Imran says those wanting to go and fight in occupied valley will do great injustice to Kashmiris; Trump will be asked to resume Afghan peace talks
Prime Minister Khan came down hard on the Indian leadership, whose RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) ideology, he said, had led them to hate Muslims and Pakistan. “Their entire policy towards Pakistan is a policy of hatred. This is the RSS policy of hatred towards Muslims. So unless they lift curfew in held Kashmir and rescind the revocation of Article 370, there is no chance of negotiations [with India],” he declared.
Mr Khan is due to address the 74th session of the UN General Assembly later this month.
When a reporter pointedly asked if Pakistan would permit those eager to fight for the Kashmiris, the prime minister said anyone wanting to go and fight in India-held Kashmir would do a great injustice to the Kashmiris by undermining their legitimate cause. “Anyone from Pakistan wanting to fight in Kashmir or go for jihad in Kashmir would do the greatest injustice to the Kashmiris. Such an act would be an act of animosity towards the Kashmiris,” he emphasised.
He said that India, while keeping 900,000 troops in Kashmir, had always been blaming Pakistan for instability in the held territory. “Anyone going from here will give them the pretext to blame Pakistan for cross-border terrorism and infiltrating terrorists,” he said.
Mr Khan said India had accused Pakistan of cross-border terrorism. “The entire world’s attention was drawn towards us, Pakistan,” he said. “Now India is stuck,” he said while referring to international concerns over the state of affairs in the held valley. “And the pressure is building up day by day,” he added.
“Now this is what I am going to say. Anyone making any such attempt [to cross over into Kashmir to fight] would be an enemy of Pakistan as well as an enemy of Kashmiris,” he asserted.
Prime Minister Khan said Pakistan did all that was in its power to facilitate talks between the United States and the Afghan Taliban. “We arranged for the meetings and facilitated the travel of Afghan Taliban to Qatar. Even the Americans acknowledge this. We went to the extent of not participating in the peace talks. We didn’t participate in the talks. Had we known there was some problem, we would have made more efforts,” he added.
“You are right,” PM Khan said when this reporter asked if he too was taken by surprise by US President Donald Trump’s sudden cancellation of peace talks with the Taliban. “We read about the breakdown in talks in newspapers,” he said.
“This is very tragic. They were close to signing a peace agreement,” Mr Khan said, adding: “I have a meeting with President Trump in New York on Monday and would insist that peace dialogue resume.”
The prime minister said peace in Afghanistan was important for Pakistan, adding that Islamabad had tried to convince the Taliban to sit down with the Afghan government and conclude a peace agreement ahead of the elections. He said peace in Afghanistan would open up trade with Central Asian republics which were more than keen to expand trade ties with Pakistan through the Gwadar port.
Mr Khan noted that with the opening of 24/7 trade services at Torkham, trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan had shown 50 per cent increase over the last few days. “But this is nothing compared with the potential of trade with the Central Asian republics. Peace in Afghanistan will transform the entire region,” he said.
The prime minister condemned in the strongest terms acts of vandalism against Hindus in Ghotki and said such acts were against the Constitution, the vision of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and the spirit of Islam which considered minorities as equal citizens. “This is a conspiracy to undermine my visit to the UNGA. This has been done deliberately to sabotage [my address],” he added.
The prime minister accused the opposition of pursuing a one-point agenda of seeking an NRO [deal] and said that the NRO given by former military dictator Gen Musharraf to the leaders of opposition parties had only harmed the country and added more debt to the national exchequer. “I want to make it clear before the entire nation that no matter what happens, we will not give an NRO to anyone,” the prime minister declared.
Published in Dawn, September 19th, 2019