United Nations, Sep 26 : If you blinked, you could have mistaken Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s speech at the UN General Assembly (UNGA) as the one he delivered in 2019.
Retrofitted with pandemic era phrases, nips and tucks, Khan belted out what was effectively an abridged version of last year’s gig, at half past noon on Friday.
The layering of the two years’ speeches seems like a Khan riff on a wild moment from recent US politics.
“Person, woman, man, camera, TV” was a phrase that US President Donald Trump used as an example of a question from a cognitive test he took. Trump explained that remembering the words in order got extra points.
Khan’s speech was ordered almost no differently from last year: A wide swipe at the world, “corrupt elites”, tree planting, Islamophobia, RSS, Modi, Kashmir and then more Kashmir.
The Prime Minister’s address was rescheduled from a late afternoon EST slot to the 14th spot in the morning session, which aligned with traditional evening primetime hours in the Pakistan area.
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. This was the warm-up routine, quite in line with last year.
Khan’s speech began at 12.31 p.m. local time. Ten minutes in came the big leap. At 12.42 p.m., his claims on carbon emissions and the promise to plant 10 billion trees came to a screeching halt so that some scraps of geopolitical red meat could be flung around.
A side by side reading of Khan’s 2019 and 2020 speeches show up a fairly predictable pattern in the text flow. The new inserts were mostly about the coronavirus and some chunks from last year’s 50 minute speech were cut out entirely.
This year, Khan made no mention of women and Hijab, unlike last time when he waded in. “A woman can take off her clothes in some countries but she cannot put more on? And why has this happened? Because certain western leaders equated Islam with terrorism,” he said early in his 2019 speech.
Sample this excerpt from 2019: “…We planted a billion trees in five years. Now we are targeting 10 billion trees.”
Khan’s 2020 lines have minor edits, some adjectives tossed in: “We have launched an extremely ambitious program to plant 10 billion trees in the next three years as a contribution to mitigating the effects of climate change.”
In 2019, he ‘explained’ to the UNGA the concept of the RSS: “I have to explain what the RSS is. Mr Modi is a ‘life member’ of RSS. An organisation inspired by Hitler and Mussolini. They believed in racial superiority the same way that the Nazi’s believed in the supremacy of the Aryan race.”
Here’s how Khan took off on the RSS on Friday, in the context of “Islamophobia”: “The reason behind this is the RSS ideology that unfortunately rules India today. This extremist ideology was founded in the 1920s, the RSS founding fathers were inspired by the Nazis and adopted their concepts of racial purity and supremacy.”
Next on the Khan rundown: Kashmir. That stayed in the same slot, after climate change, RSS and Modi.
The 2019 readout: “Now I want to move on to talk about Kashmir. When we came into power; my first priority was that Pakistan would be that country that would try its best to bring peace” and “This is the time when you, the UN, must urge India to lift the curfew; to free the 13,000 Kashmiris who have disappeared meanwhile and this is the time when the UN must insist on Kashmir’s right to self determination.
“Mr. President, For over 72 years, India has illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir against the wishes of the Kashmiri people, and in blatant violation of the resolutions of the Security Council.”
“India is playing a dangerous game of upping the ante against Pakistan in a nuclearised environment,” he added.
In 2019, it was, “if a conventional war starts between two countries, nuclear countries…anything could happen”.
India slammed Khan’s 34-minute “litany of vicious falsehood, personal attacks, warmongering and obfuscation of Pakistan’s persecution of its own minorities”.
“The only crowning glory that this country has to show to the world for the last 70 years is terrorism, ethnic cleansing, majoritarian fundamentalism, and clandestine nuclear trade,” India said in its right of reply late Friday.
The main resolution on Kashmir – No. 47 – demands that Pakistan withdraw its troops and personnel from Kashmir.