At the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on Friday, Pakistan and India sparred on the condition of minority rights in each other’s countries as the Assembly adopted a resolution, co-sponsored by Pakistan, condemning the disruption and degradation of religious sites.
Rejecting what were called India’s “unjustified claims” about the burning down of a Hindu shrine last month in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Karak tehsil, Pakistani delegate Zulqarnain Chheena said India should bring its own house in order instead of feigning outrage elsewhere for minority rights.
This is not the first time India, despite being the most serious and consistent violator of minority rights itself, has sought to feign concern for minority rights elsewhere,” he added.
Saudi Arabia has submitted the resolution and co-sponsored it with other Arab countries, including Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Yemen, Bahrain, Sudan, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, and Palestine, which is acknowledged by the United Nations as a non-member observer state.
Co-sponsors include Bangladesh, the Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Mauritania, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines and Venezuela.
However, speaking during the assembly, the representative of India said it was “ironic” that Pakistan was one of the co-sponsors of the resolution, claiming that with the “explicit support” of law enforcement agencies the attack on the Karak shrine was carried out.
For countries like Pakistan to hide behind,”The resolution cannot be smokescreen for countries like Pakistan to hide behind,”The resolution can not be smokescreened.
“Exercising his right of reply, Chheena said: “The strong contrast between India and Pakistan with respect to minority rights can be gauged from the fact that the accused were immediately detained in the Karak incident, orders were given for the temple to be restored, the highest level of judiciary immediately observed, and the incident was denounced by senior political leadership.
“Whereas in India, blatant acts of discrimination against Muslims and other minorities take place with state complicity.”
In this regard, the Pakistani delegate cited the discriminatory Citizenship Reform Act, the National Registry of People, the Gujarat massacre of 2002, the Delhi pogrom of 2020, the destruction of Babri Mosque in 1992 and the acquittal of the guilty in 2020, accusing Muslims of spreading coronavirus, creating the bogey of ‘love jihad’
“The record of the RSS-BJP regime is replete with instances of gross and systemic violations of minority rights, especially of Muslims,” said the Pakistani delegate.
The Indian government is yet to denounce, let alone put those offenders to justice, the perpetrators of the February 2020 Delhi massacre.
“As a perennial purveyor of state-sponsored discrimination against its minorities, India is in no position to pontificate on the issue of minority rights elsewhere,” Chheena told the Assembly.
“Pakistan will continue to play a leading role in denouncing violent attacks on religious sites.” said Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Munir Akram.
The resolution opposes the “increasing targeting of cultural property, including religious sites and ritual objects […] by terrorist attacks and outlawed militias, often resulting in destruction as well as theft and illicit trafficking of stolen items”
“all attacks on and in religious places, sites and shrines […] including any deliberate destruction of relics and monuments which violate international law”
And it rejects all threats of assaulting, damaging or removing religious sites and denounces all attempts to obliterate or forcefully convert any religious sites.
The United States and the European Union backed the resolution and adopted it by consensus, with UNGA President Volkan Bozkir declaring: “It is so decided.”
The resolution states that the right to freedom of expression, conscience and faith is enshrined in the Constitution of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and that prior international attempts have already been aimed at keeping religious sites from being desecrated.
“Religious sites are representative of the history, social fabric and traditions of people in every country and community all over the world and should be fully respected as such,” the resolution states.
It reaffirms that, encompassing all countries, combating the loss of tangible and intangible cultural heritage needs to be comprehensive. Both deterrence and transparency must also be addressed, concentrating on actions by state and non-state actors in conflict and non-conflict contexts, as well as terrorist acts.