Pakistan's foreign ministry in hot waters after envoy abstains from voting on Syria

Pakistan’s envoy at the UN Human Rights Council abstained from voting on a resolution against killings of civilians and human rights violations in Syria. (UN/file)
Updated 12 March 2018
0

Pakistan's foreign ministry in hot waters after envoy abstains from voting on Syria

ISLAMABAD: All of Pakistan’s parliamentary parties have demanded the government to hold the country’s envoy at the Office of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) for abstaining to vote on a resolution against killings of civilians and human rights violations in Syria.
“Pakistan has committed a blunder by not supporting the resolution and it must be investigated as to why our envoy at the UN Human Rights Council abstained from voting,” Sen. Taj Haider of Pakistan Peoples Party told Arab News.
He said the government should explain its position on the gaffe in Parliament as it is a matter of grave concern for the people. “By abstaining from vote, we indirectly sent a message to the international community that Pakistan stands with the oppressor in Syria instead of the innocent people,” he said.
On March 5, a resolution was moved in the UNHHRC on the deteriorating situation of human rights in Eastern Ghouta and it was adopted by a vote of 29 in favor and four against. Fourteen countries including Pakistan abstained from the voting.
Speaking on floor of the National Assembly on Friday, Minister for Foreign Affairs Khawaja Muhammad Asif said: “It is a matter of shame as our envoy did not cast a vote against atrocities on Syrian people.”
He was responding to questions raised by Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, a coalition partner of the government, who informed the House that Pakistan abstained from voting on the resolution.
Talking to Arab News, JUI-F Member National Assembly Naeema Kishwar said her party has demanded the government to investigate the matter and present a detailed report of it in the Parliament.
“We want the Parliament to hold the envoy accountable for the blunder,” she said, “it is a matter of shame for us that we have not voted in favor of the resolution that condemned violence against Syrian people.”
Kishwar said Pakistani liberals criticized the government when it deployed troops in Saudi Arabia, but they are silent on atrocities being committed against innocents in Syria. “Our government needs to come up with a clear stance that Pakistanis condemn violence against Syrians,” she said, “we also want the Parliament to pass a consensus resolution condemning atrocities against innocent Syrians.”
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Member National Assembly Dr. Shireen Mazari told Arab News that Pakistan’s role at the UNHRC in the matter of Syrian resolutions reflects the poor foreign policy of the government.
“Syria has become a battlefield where different Muslim countries have different positions, but we should be very much clear in our stance that we condemn violence against innocent people in all its forms,” she said.
Talking to Arab News, Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan MNA Ali Raza Abidi also demanded the government investigate the matter thoroughly and brief the Parliament about it. “It should be investigated if the diplomat stayed back because of any pressure or arrangement,” he said.
Dr. Mohammad Faisal, spokesman for Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told Arab News that Pakistan supports a peaceful and political solution to end the crisis to ensure security and stability in the region, including respect for the territorial integrity of Syria.
“We are concerned at the humanitarian situation and urge all sides to enable provision of humanitarian and medical assistance to the innocent men, women and children and to take urgent measures for their safety and security,” he said.
Faisal refused to comment if the ministry will investigate against Pakistani diplomat at the OHCHR for abstaining from the voting.
However, the foreign minister assured the National Assembly on Friday: “I’ll let the House know on Monday as to why Pakistan did not vote on the resolution.”


Troops called to India's Kerala as flood toll rises

India residents stand on the shore as Periyar river flooded following monsoon rains at Aluva, in the Indian state of Kerala, on August 16, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 52 min 17 sec ago
0

Troops called to India's Kerala as flood toll rises

  • More than 10,000 kilometers of roads and hundreds of homes have been destroyed or damaged across the state
  • A heavy rainfall “red-alert” has been issued across much of the state, which is home to around 33 million people

KOCHI: Helicopters airlifted stranded families from rooftops and dam gates were thrown open as incessant torrential rain brought fresh havoc Thursday to the Indian state of Kerala where about 100 people are feared dead.
Hundreds of extra troops were deployed in the southern state, a major tourist hotspot, as the government issued a “red alert” over the region’s worst floods in decades.
State authorities said the confirmed death toll was 72 but officials and media reports said up to 30 more people were feared dead Thursday in landslides and as rivers burst their banks, flooding scores of villages.
At least eight people were reported dead and 15 others, including a three-month-old infant, were trapped inside three houses hit by a landslide near an irrigation dam in Malappuram district, the Hindu newspaper said.
Authorities said many people were trapped inside their houses. More than 60,000 people have sought refuge in relief camps.
“At least 6,500 people are stranded in different parts of Kerala and the situation in three districts is particularly grim,” a Kerala state disaster management official told AFP.
Kerala, famed for its pristine palm-lined beaches and tea plantations, is battered by the monsoon every year but this year’s damage has been particularly severe. Floods have also caused havoc in other states, including Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh.
Some 540 army, navy and air forces reinforcements were sent to Kerala on Thursday to join the rescue effort.
The army said it had rescued scores of people with helicopters sent to the region. Defense forces and government boats were also used in an increasingly desperate rescue operation.
Authorities appealed for victims to stand in open fields or on rooftops away from trees so helicopters were not damaged during rescue efforts.

People could be seen paddling lifeboats provided by the military, while in some areas families commandeered local wooden boats to ferry themselves to safety.
Army helicopters rescued families but also dropped food packets and drinking water to some of the worst-affected districts.
The government says 10,000 kilometers (6,000 miles) of Kerala roads have been destroyed or damaged and hundreds of homes lost.
It has ordered the opening of gates at 34 dams and reservoirs where water levels had reached danger levels.
Cars and livestock washed away in the floods were seen on Indian television, and men and women wading through chest-high waters that had gushed into their homes.
Many used social media to send rooftop distress calls, some with video.
Greeta Mathew pleaded for help for her family in a Twitter message.
“Anybody reading this,PLZ HELP. My relatives are stuck on the upper floor of house with an 8 months pregnant lady, in Edayaranmula, Pathanamthitta dist. All rescue control rooms’ numbers busy. No rescue team reached yet. No contact with family since last evening,” she said.
North and central Kerala has been worst hit by the floods but all 14 of the state’s districts have been put on alert as heavy rain is predicted for several days.
In the main city of Kochi, the international airport was closed until at least Saturday because of flooding. Departures were canceled while incoming flights have been diverted to other airports in India.
All public transport has been stopped with many buses left abandoned in the road.
Elsewhere, eight people were swept away on Wednesday after a sudden water surge hit a popular picnic in Madhya Pradesh state. Another 45 stranded were rescued on Thursday by police.