United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has called for restraint from both India and Pakistan and a return to diplomacy and dialogue to settle disputes. The UN chief is in Islamabad to attend a UNHCR conference on Afghan refugees. The head of the UN stressed the need for the two countries to “de-escalate, both militarily and verbally”. ‘Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi spent most of the joint press conference highlighting Pakistan’s concerns regarding Occupied Kashmir and “unilateral” move by New Delhi to strip the region of its special status. Qureshi also noted the increase in ceasefire violations along the Line of Control since India revoked Kashmir’s special status last August. Guterres expressed “deep concern” over the increasing ceasefire violations while stressing “the importance of exercising maximum restraint”. He also reiterated his “offer to exercise my good offices should both sides ask.” India, unfortunately, has seemingly lost interest in peace, having rebuffed similar offers from President Trump as well.
The UN chief also praised “Pakistan’s commitment to peace” by singling out the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor, along with appreciating the efforts of Pakistani troops participating in UN peacekeeping missions and hosting millions of Afghan refugees. He also noted Pakistan’s climate change mitigation efforts. On the security front, he acknowledged that Islamabad looking like a “military camp” due to the domestic militant threat to once again being designated a ‘family station’ for UN staff. All in all, it was a positive start to a four-day tour, and despite Guterres having also called for Pakistan to show restraint, his broader comments will help silence naysayers. Also, in his later meetings with Pakistan’s top political leaders, maybe the popular ex-PM of Portugal can explain a thing or two about successful budget management and privatisation — two issues that the incumbent government could undoubtedly use advice on.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 18th, 2020.