Pakistan stands for universal ban on nukes

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WASHINGTON: Pakistan is not against nuclear disarmament but it should be universal and non-discriminatory, says Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry.

During the 69th General Assembly, the United Nations observed the first-ever annual day for the total elimination of nuclear weapons. In a message released by his office, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged member states that “the time has come for the total elimination of nuclear weapons stockpiles”.

While most active members of one group lobbied for a complete, across the board ban on all nuclear arms, others quietly tried to put the spotlight on Pakistan.

India led this group, which argued that Pakistan was an instable country, facing widespread terrorism and political chaos. They also drew attention to PTI’s dharna, both outside the parliament building in Islamabad and near the UN headquarters during Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s address on Sept 26.

Terrorism and this political chaos, they argued, showed that Pakistan was an inherently weak state, which cannot be trusted with nuclear weapons.

Pakistan dealt with this onslaught by arguing that it was not against elimination of nuclear weapons but “would like to see a universal, non-discriminatory and verifiable nuclear disarmament”, as Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry explained.

Mr Chaudhry also urged the international community, “not to forget what caused Pakistan to go for the nuclear option”.

He said that India’s nuclear tests had disturbed the strategic balance in South Asia and Pakistan had no option but to restore the balance.

Also during the session, a spokesperson for the US State Department told the Pakistani media that US Vice President Joe Biden would ask Pakistan to join the international coalition against the Islamic State during his meeting with Mr Sharif.

Initial remarks by the two sides did not mention this request but statements issued a day after the meeting acknowledged that the two leaders spent part of their time discussing terrorism.

The White House said that the two leaders “affirmed … the importance of continuing to combat terrorism together”.

The Pakistani statement said that Mr Sharif and Mr Biden “agreed that terrorism was a common threat to Pakistan and the United States”.

Later, a Pakistani official explained that while Pakistan “whole heartedly supports the international coalition against ISIS, it is reluctant to chew more than it can handle”.

The official pointed out that Pakistan was already conducting a major campaign against terrorists in the tribal area and it believed that eliminating terrorists in Fata would also help the international fight against terrorism.

The Biden-Sharif meeting lasted longer than initially expected. They had two, half-an-hour sessions, once with their aides and then just the two of them. Before the meeting, Mr Biden said the US was pleased that Pakistan had an elected government and similar sentiments were issued in the White House statement too.

The decision to include this point in the statement released after the meeting underlined the importance the White House attaches to this issue.

Pakistan’s official statement, issued after that of the White House, mentioned a “positive momentum in the growth of bilateral cooperation”.

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