'Pakistan to ask UK, EU parliamentarians to play their part for de-escalation of tensions with India'

Published March 2, 2019
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi addresses a press conference in Lahore. — DawnNewsTV
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi addresses a press conference in Lahore. — DawnNewsTV

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Saturday announced that Pakistan is going to write to the parliamentarians of Britain and the European Union, asking them to play their part in de-escalation of the ongoing conflict with India.

Qureshi made the announcement during a joint press conference with Punjab Governor Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar.

"Governor Punjab and I have taken an initiative, which is to write letters to the House of Commons' members as well as the European parliament and engage them [for de-escalation and peace]," Qureshi said.

"Through this press conference and the letters I ask them to play their roles. The world needs to differentiate between those who want peace and those who want war. The world is seeing that the Taliban and the US are negotiating. At this hour would we want to start a war?"

Read: Unilateral efforts to de-escalate tensions won’t help: experts

The foreign minister said that he had an inkling that India would initiate a conflict ahead of their elections, due to which his ministry had started working well in advance.

"As far as the diplomatic front is concerned, the Foreign Office had been activated before even the Pulwama attack," he said. "This was because we had an idea that elections are coming in India and the Modi government was losing its popularity, a clear indication of which was their losses in five states.

"Their performance compelled them to do something to boost their popularity. In India, an easy way to do so is Pakistan bashing. So we knew that a misadventure could happen, through which they could try and regain their lost goodwill.

"Pulwama was not even on the radar when we started briefings. I contacted many foreign ministers and told them. When I went to Moscow, I told them I'm fearing this, and my fears kept on proving true, which resonated with them."

Qureshi negated the notion that international powers are not taking interest in the Pakistan-India conflict, saying: "The US has started playing its role. I have talked to Mike Pompeo and the British foreign minister. But understand India's dilemma. There are question marks on them in their own country. How can they change their attitude at once?"

The minister said that the decision to release the captured Indian pilot was not a sign of weakness but a gesture of goodwill. "The people in power know that to return the Indian pilot was not a weakness but a gesture of goodwill and a peace initiative. This was a message for those millions of Indians who want peace. Only a segment is creating this frenzy," he said.

Qureshi said that the decision to release the captured Indian pilot was "Imran Khan's own initiative and a product of his vision. "There was no international pressure and we did not affix any conditions," he said.

The minister expressed his disappointment of Pakistani inmate Shakirullah's murder in an Indian jail. His body was handed to Pakistan at the time of Qureshi's press conference.

"I am disappointed at what happened with Shakirullah," he said. "It was India's responsibility to protect him. They failed to fulfil that responsibility. When their pilot was caught, you saw what the mob's mentality was. But Pakistan Army went there at once, rescued him, gave him a bath and new clothes, served him tea, gave him first aid, which was our responsibility because these are human and Islamic values."

Qureshi highlighted that the resolution passed by a joint sitting on the entire episode had urged Indian parliamentarians to raise their voice for peace.

"The parliament passed a joint resolution on this issue," he said. "We have given a united front on several issues, but the most important part was the last clause. We, as the joint parliament, told our Indian counterparts that we're playing our part and you should too. There is a large constituency for peace in India that wants peace and not war.

Regarding the Pulwama dossier sent by India, Qureshi said: "It is being examined by the Foreign Office. After that, we will send them a message to come and sit on the basis of that dossier."

Qureshi also paid a tribute to the Pakistani media, whose role throughout the conflict was "exemplary and responsible". "Indian media, on the other hand, added fuel to fire, and created frenzy and hype," he said.

The foreign minister rejected having insinuated in a TV interview that Pakistan will have to put its house in order.

"What does "putting your house in order" mean?" he asked. "It's about making policies that show that we are a peace-loving nation, which we have already done. What hadn't been done, has been done. Our house is already in order."

Furthermore, he rubbished reports that the entire parliament was not in agreement at his decision to skip the Council of Foreign Ministers at the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation summit due to his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj's presence.

"There were no disagreements in the parliament. The resolution passed was unanimous and it bears the signatures of Asif Zardari and Raja Zafarul Haq. Listen to Zardari sahab again, he said 'it's my opinion but I accept the parliament's decision.' The PPP, more than all, talks about parliament's supremacy so when parliament decides something, accept it.

"When Zardari sahab was addressing the parliament, you must have seen that I stood up and told him that 'your senior leadership is [supporting my decision]. He replied that 'you should have contacted me'."

"If anyone wants to do politics, they can. What we did was right," Qureshi added.

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