UN Secy Gen spokesman defends Haq over Kashmir row

An extraordinary attack on the Indian media and defence of Pakistani-origin aide of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon marked another round of the raging row over Kashmir at the world body`s headquarters.

United Nations: An extraordinary attack on the Indian media and defence of Pakistani-origin aide of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon marked another round of the
raging row over Kashmir at the world body`s headquarters here.

Ban`s chief spokesperson Martin Nesirky defended his colleague Farhan Haq, associate spokesman, who is in the centre of the controversy, against attacks in the Indian press
that suggested Haq was responsible for the remarks concerning the violence in Kashmir, which came out of the United Nations on July 28.

Nesirky also slammed the Indian press for suggesting Haq`s "ethnicity" as a possible motivation for the remarks on Kashmir, which New Delhi has strongly objected to. Haq is an American citizen born in Washington DC with roots in Pakistan.

"I won`t tolerate insults being directed against my colleagues," a visibly agitated Nesirky told journalists at the regular briefing at the UN.

"I really take exception to the insinuations based on ethnicity that I`ve seen in Indian publications. I firmly reject them," he said. "Not only are they offensive, they are

The e-mail containing controversial remarks was originally sent out by Haq to journalists of three Pakistani publications who had been asking questions about Kashmir since
the unrest mounted after June 11 when a 17-year-old student died after being hit by a teargas shell fired by police during a protest.

The remarks noted that the secretary general called on "all concerned to exercise utmost restraint and address problems peacefully" and he "encourages both sides to rekindle
the spirit of the composite dialogue".

Following protests by the Indian government, the UN backtracked from the statement and described it as a "media guidance" and not a "statement by the Secretary General."

Nesirky clarified that the "media guidance" was prepared by the UN Secretariat and only distributed by the UN spokeperson`s office. Haq, however, has been slammed by the
Indian media for his role in the passage of controversial e-mail.

Nesirky singled out a leading business daily from Delhi which ran a story "Pakistan man concocted UN Secretary General`s J&K remark" and said he had written to its Editor
pointing out that the media guidance was "not prepared or concocted in his office" but instead reiterated that it had come from the UN Secretariat.

"I reject absolutely any insinuation in this direction," the spokesperson said. "Its just plain wrong and it is offensive."

Nesirky, however, did not offer any comment when asked by a Western correspondent about the role of Ban`s chief of staff and former Indian diplomat, Vijay Nambiar, in the issuing of the original remarks and its later withdrawal.

"No I can`t (comment)," he said, even as Western correspondents have quoted sources as saying that Nambiar had approved the statement before it went out in July.

New Delhi has taken offence to both parts of the statement -- the first, which calls for exercise of restraint in Kashmir and the second that touches on India-Pakistan peace

The Indian government has asserted that these remarks have been seized upon by separatists and Pakistan to back their cause.

For instance, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, this week, cited Ban`s remarks as reflecting the "collective concern of the international community at the
human rights violations" in Jammu and Kashmir.

The Indian sides also insisted that the remarks were made in complete disregard to the Indian position that the composite dialogue can only be renewed after Pakistan
prosecutes the terrorists who were responsible for the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai.


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