But to do that, Sharif said, Pakistan needs a “stable external environment” – that means peace in South Asia, which he says depends on resolving the decades-long dispute over Jammu and -Cashmere.
“At the heart of this long-standing dispute is the denial of the Kashmiri people’s inalienable right to self-determination,” Sharif said, describing what he called the “relentless campaign of repression” and “serial brutalization”. of the Kashmiris.
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and has been claimed by both since gaining independence from the British Empire 75 years ago.
Sharif blamed India for its own colonial ambitions in trying to change Kashmir’s demographics from majority Muslim to majority Hindu. While he described Islamophobia as “a global phenomenon”, he specifically accused India’s Hindu nationalist government of engaging in “the worst manifestation of Islamophobia”.
India – which has said Kashmir is an internal matter and one of law and order – is due to speak at the General Assembly on Saturday. Rights groups have accused Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party of looking the other way and sometimes allowing hate speech against Muslims. Modi’s party denies the charges, but Indian Muslims say attacks on them and their faith have risen sharply.
Sharif also spoke at length about regional instability and terrorism – of which he called Pakistan “the main victim”.
He presented a stark contrast to his flashy but conservative predecessor, Imran Khan, who devoted much of last year’s speech to accusing the United States of victimizing Pakistan. Khan was ousted in April after losing a vote of no confidence.
Dressed in an understated business suit instead of Khan’s favorite waistcoat-and-salwar-kameez combination, Sharif did not once mention the United States by name.
He was impassioned, sometimes banging the podium vigorously or clasping his fists demonstratively, but his words had a less combative tone.
“Pakistan is a partner for peace,” Sharif said before departing from prepared remarks: “But Mr. President, peace can only be secured and guaranteed when the rights of communities who have suffered for decades, and subjugated for decades, gain their freedom and are respected.
Sharif’s speech also represented a change from last year, when Khan expressed optimism about the then-nascent Taliban regime in Afghanistan and urged the General Assembly not to isolate the new government. A year later, no UN member state has recognized the Taliban government.
“Pakistan would also like to see an Afghanistan at peace with itself and with the world, and which respects and nurtures all its citizens, regardless of gender, ethnicity or religion,” he said, avoiding directly mention its current government.
Above all, he echoed a common fear of countries that don’t usually dominate global discourse: conflicts like Ukraine,” he said of the flood recovery. “My question is, are we going to stay alone, dry?”
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