Excellencies,Honourable members of the faculty, Distinguished guests, Dear students, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is indeed a great honour for me to be present here today at this prestigious institution, and to share some thoughts and perspectives on an issue that is very close to our hearts.

I would like to especially thank the students and the administration of the Kastamonu University for organizing this timely event.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity of participating in the Extraordinary Summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on Al-Quds Al-Sharif, held in Istanbul on 13 December 2017.

It was indeed heartwarming to see leaders from the across the Muslim Ummah gather together on such an important issue, in a city like Istanbul that not only symbolizes the unity of the Muslim Ummah but also its glorious past and great civilizational achievements.

The OIC Summit was attended by over 30 Heads of the States and Governments including the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. 

Under the able leadership of the President of Turkey, His Excellency President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is also the current Chair of the OIC, the moot sent out a strong, unequivocal and unified message of the Muslim world to uphold the religious and historical status of Jerusalem, and to stand by the people of Palestine.  

The challenge is to translate this message of solidarity into meaningful action that would help assuage the decades-long suffering of the Palestinians under the Israeli occupation.

As the Prime Minister of Pakistan in his address to the Extraordinary OIC Summit said and I quote:

“The question on every Muslim mind today would be whether we can rise above our differences, stand united and give hope to our peoples, or once again adopt declarations which cannot be translated into effective actions.”

Perhaps, it is a question that is on the minds of us all today.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a pity that despite the global recognition of the legitimate cause of the Palestinian people and reaffirmations of their inalienable rights by the international community ad nauseam in countless speeches and declarations, Israel continues to flagrantly violate international law; defy global public opinion; commit gross violations of human rights; and make a mockery of all moral and ethical standards governing civilized human behavior.

Its response to the ever-increasing chorus of censure and disapprobation against its illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories is to, in fact, step-up the construction of such projects.

Its reaction to the condemnation of the world for choking humanitarian access to Palestinian territories is to further tighten its stranglehold around the civilian populations. 

The construction of the illegal Israeli Wall dividing the Palestinian homeland under the pretext of security; the creation of buffer zones on land, usurped from the civilians; daily humiliation meted out to Palestinians at hundreds of Israeli checkpoints; demolition of Palestinian homes and eviction of civilians for expansion of illegal Israeli settlements; collective punishments given to the civilians through blockade of Gaza; and use of arbitrary and excessive force by Israeli forces against Palestinian protestors, are all manifestations of not only the daily reality of this draconian occupation but also the sheer failure of the international community to fulfill its moral and legal role.

Lets not go far. Lets only look at the images that flashed across our television screens during the last couple of weeks.

How can anyone ignore the image of the 14-year Mohamed al-Taweel, a Palestinian boy suffering from Down Syndrome, being manhandled and arrested by Israeli soldiers. His only crime being protesting against the occupation.

How can one possibly overcome one’s anger and sheer frustration after watching the harrowing scene in which dozens of Israeli soldiers attacked, blind-folded and then arrested 16-year-old Palestinian boy Fawzi al-Juneidi.

Yet, such scenes have become all too familiar – perhaps even banal – not only in Palestine but elsewhere as well.

Ladies and gentlemen,

For decades, the people of Palestine, Jammu & Kashmir, Cyprus, Nagorno-Karabokh and Rohingyas in Myanmar have waited in agony for the international community to step in to end their plight.

Their continued suffering is an ignoble blot on the collective conscience of the international community.

In my own region, for over seventy years, the people of Jammu and Kashmir have been subjected to illegal Indian occupation and blatant violation of their fundamental rights including their right to self-determination.

It sent shudders down my spine to read the story of 8 years old Asif Sheikh in New York Times last year in August, undergoing an eye operation in the Occupied Jammu & Kashmir, after he was shot in the eyes by pellet guns used with impunity by Indian forces against civilians. 

Asif was but one of over 700 victims of indiscriminate use of pellet-gun shots used by the Indian security forces to quell peaceful protests that erupted last year in Occupied Jammu and Kashmir and continue to this day.  Most of such victims would never see the light of the day again, being permanently blinded by pellet-shots. Others would spend their remaining lives living under the shadows of an impaired vision and psychological trauma.

“An Epidemic of ‘Dead Eyes’ – that’s how New York Times described it.

Sadly, over the years, Kashmiris have lost much more than their vision.

An estimated 94,000 Kashmiris have so far been martyred by the Indian forces in their struggle for self-determination, many in the custody of the Indian security forces. Hundreds of mass graves have been discovered. More than 10,000 women have been raped and assaulted. Since last year alone, over 150 Kashmiris have been martyred and over 15,000 injured.

Jammu & Kashmir remains one of the most heavily militarized zones in the world, with an estimated 700,000 Indian troops stationed in the disputed territory.

Like their brothers and sisters in Palestine struggling against another similar occupier, the people of Jammu & Kashmir are demanding India to end its gross violations of human rights and atrocities; and implement the relevant UN Security Council resolutions that declare that the final disposition of the State of Jammu and Kashmir would be made in accordance with the will of the Kashmiri people, expressed through democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite conducted under the auspices of the United Nations.

You would all agree that it’s a fair and just demand, promised by the international community through the UN Security Council resolutions. Yet the world remains silent in the face of all these atrocities.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Pakistan has been one of the staunchest supporters of the Palestinian people in their just struggle to end the Israeli occupation. Our hearts beat in unison with the Palestinians, and every Pakistani feels their pain.

We firmly believe that a viable, independent and contiguous State of Palestine on the basis of internationally agreed parameters, the pre-1967 borders and Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital, is the only sustainable guarantee for enduring peace in the Middle East.

Moreover, withdrawal of Israeli occupation forces from all Arab lands, including of Lebanon and the Syrian Golan Heights is not only vital for the future of the next generation of Palestinians, but for international peace and security itself.

Pakistan is proud to have led the discussions on the relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council, as Chair of OIC, including UNSC resolutions 476 and 478, which constitute the very cornerstone of the international political and legal framework for the settlement of the Palestinian issue.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Al Quds Al Sharif is the first Qibla of Islam and one of its three most sacred and revered religious sites. For the Palestinians, the city symbolizes not only the capital of the future Palestinian State but also a realization of their just aspirations and end of decades of occupation.

Changing its historical status or political character will not only in all probability sound a death knell for the decades-long Middle East peace process and plunge the whole region into further instability, but it will also hurt the religious sentiments of over a billion Muslims across the globe – not to mention followers of other faiths.   

The recent US decision to relocate its Embassy to Jerusalem, therefore, constitutes a clear violation of international law as well as United Nations Security Council resolutions, in particular Resolutions 476 and 478.

Pakistan has strongly condemned this decision, and has called on the US to revoke this step that undermines the historical and legal status of Al-Quds Al-Sharif.

Thousands of peaceful demonstrators took to streets in Pakistan to register their protest against the US decision, and to express solidarity with their Palestinian brothers and sisters.

Both Houses of Pakistan’s Parliament – the Senate and the National Assembly - have unanimously adopted resolutions condemning the US decision.


Pakistan also continues to raise its voice against this decision at the international fora.

During the Extraordinary OIC Summit, Pakistan had proposed that if the UN Security Council is unable to respond to the situation, we should garner support in the UN General Assembly. We are happy to note that under the leadership of Turkey and with the support of countries like Pakistan, OIC and Arab States took the matter to the UN General Assembly after the unfortunate US veto of the UN Security Council resolution on Jerusalem.

Pakistan also called for seeking International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) advisory opinion on the US move.

We will continue to give all possible moral and political support to the people of Palestine till the realization of their right to self-determination and end to the Israeli occupation, for there can be no peace in Middle East as long as this occupation persists. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We commend the visionary leadership of Turkey and sense of devotion of its political leaders for the unity of the Muslim world at a time when we are confronted with numerous internal and external challenges.

Turkey’s proactive diplomatic engagement and leadership on the issue of Al Quds Al Sharif is a matter of strength not only for the people of Palestine but also for over 1 billion Muslims around the globe.

Pakistan commends the convening of the Extraordinary OIC Summit in Istanbul, and will continue to stand by Turkey to support these efforts at all fora.

And, we are indeed thankful to Turkey for its unwavering support for the just struggle for the right to self-determination of the people of Occupied Jammu & Kashmir.

On our part, we will continue to stand by our Turkish brothers and sisters just like our forefathers who left their homes in their support almost a century ago.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Today the Muslim Ummah is facing many challenges like Palestine and Jammu & Kashmir dispute because of our own weaknesses and divisions.

We need to rise above our internal differences; overcome our economic and political dependence on others; and revive the great intellectual traditions to which we are heirs.

It is only through building our own internal strengths that we can overcome the daunting challenges of the present day.

Young spirits like you are our hope.

And I am confident that our hopes will come true.

Thank you.