VOA's Margaret Besheer spoke with Pakistani U.N. Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi.
Q: Amb. Lodhi, thanks for joining us. You just met with the U.N. secretary-general, can you tell us a bit about what you discussed?
Lodhi: I met the secretary-general to brief him on the serious situation that is emerging in our region. And the reason for that a spate of threatening statements from Indian leaders in the wake of the incident that occurred in Pulwama in occupied Kashmir. He started the meeting by saying these are troubled times for the region, and I said ‘yes’. And he has a role to play. I reminded him that prevention was at the very heart of his strategy, the heart of his vision. This is the moment for him to act on his own strategy, to prevent the situation from escalating further between Pakistan and India. My prime minister only this morning, offered India an investigation into the incident that occurred. He also offered India a resumption of the dialogue to address the issue of Jammu and Kashmir. The issue that lies at the heart of the violence and the cycle of violence that goes on. We would like to see an end by a peaceful settlement of the Kashmir dispute in line with the wishes of the Kashmiri people, and also in line with [U.N.] Security Council resolutions. This is what I discussed with the secretary-general.
Q: Did he offer his good offices? Did he offer anything from the U.N.?
Lodhi: The secretary-general reminded me in the past, also, he had said that his good offices available to Pakistan and India. I said well, this is also another moment where he needs to make a similar offer. He said he would do it this time. I asked also for him to make a public call for de-escalation because we are perilously close to something that could spin out of control.
Q: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was in Pakistan this week and today, Tuesday, he went to India. Are you looking to him, perhaps as an interlocutor?:
Lohdi: I think the main issue is that we’d like to see a resumption of dialogue between Pakistan and India to address all outstanding issues, especially the issue which is an unsettled, unresolved dispute over Jammu and Kashmir. This issue is one of human rights; this issue is one of denial of self-determination to the people of Kashmir. And you know, every time there is a civilian life that is lost in the occupied territory, it is not just another statistic, it is somebody’s sister, mother, brother, child who dies, and with that death of martyrdom every Kashmiri dies a little, and so do we in Pakistan.
Q: Has PM Khan spoken with PM Modi? Have the two spoken directly?
Lodhi: Prime Minister Imran Khan has renewed his offer of a dialogue with the government of India. But the government of India is adamant on its no talks posture -- which we think is hugely irresponsible. We think dialogue is the only way to resolve our differences, and not to talk to each other in such a fraught situation is really irresponsible.
Q: Pakistan has something of a credibility issue when it comes to terrorism. Iran has accused your country of the most recent attack on their Revolutionary Guards that killed 27 troops, they said it was planned and carried out from Pakistan. Afghanistan has accused Pakistan of supporting terrorists. What is going on the terrorism front? What is Pakistan doing to restore its credibility in the international community?
Lohdi: Pakistan prime minister only this morning reminded the international community that Pakistan itself has suffered and has been a victim of terrorism. We have lost tens of thousands of lives to terrorism, and we have fought back, so that the terrorist threat in Pakistan has receded. So I think to say that we have a credibility issue is not factually correct. We believe that we have played a key role in the decimation of al-Qaida from our region; we have played a key role in eliminating terrorists from our own soil. And PM Imran Khan has said again that Pakistani territory will never be allowed to be used by anybody for attacks on any other country.