Reading between the lines: A message for US in Sharif’s UNGA speech

  • Yashwant Raj, Hindustan Times, Washington
  • Updated: Sep 22, 2016 01:47 IST
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan waits to address the United Nations General Assembly in the Manhattan borough of New York, US, on September 21, 2016. (Reuters)

In boilerplate remarks reprising Pakistan’s long-standing rant on Kashmir and India, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday went further than any leader from his country before perhaps taking aim at the United States.

“Terrorism is now a global phenomenon, which must be addressed comprehensively and in all its forms, including State terrorism,” he said as he proceeded to bash India.

Read | Pakistan PM Sharif offers peace talks, but needles India on Kashmir at UNGA

“The international community must coordinate its efforts to accomplish this. These efforts should be taken collectively and not unilaterally by the passage of any laws with extra-territorial application targeted against certain countries.”

The context here seemed to be H.R.6069, the Pakistan State Sponsor of Terrorism Designation Act, a legislation introduced in the US House of Representatives on Tuesday. If enacted, the legislation will require the US President to give congress a report detailing instances of Pakistan supporting international terrorism or state unequivocally it is not. Within 30 days of the report, the secretary of state will be required to determine Pakistan has indeed done that, or say it hasn’t.

“It is time we stop paying Pakistan for its betrayal and designate it for what it is: a state sponsor of terrorism,” Ted Poe, a Republican heading House sub-committee on terrorism, said in a statement announcing the introduction of the Bill.

The legislation, moved jointly by Poe and Dana Rohrabacher, also a Republican, reflected a deep sense of betrayal felt by US lawmakers over Pakistan’s dodgy record on counter-terrorism; “duplicitous” is how they describe it.

The designation of state sponsor of terrorism — currently bestowed by the US on Iran, Syria and Sudan — would entail restrictions on foreign assistance and sale of arms, and will hurt Pakistan which is a major beneficiary of both.

The Poe-Rohrabacher bill may or not make it through, but its introduction had the desired effect on Pakistan.

“If our current efforts in Pakistan are not producing the results we seek then what are out of options,” Representative Matt Salmon, a Republican, said during a recent congressional hearing about Pakistan, adding, “We could simply turn the money off… we could enforce sanctions or declare Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism.”

Richard Grenier, a former CIA operative who was once state chief in Islamabad, told lawmakers at another recent hearing that the US had nearly designated Pakistan as state sponsor of terrorism in the 1990s, around the time of escalation of terror activities in Kashmir.

It escaped then, as it may this time.

Also read | Full text of Nawaz Sharif’s speech at UN general assembly

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