Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Sunday invited PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari for talks regarding the implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP) at the place of his choosing and said that he has no objections to a parliamentary briefing on the same.
Speaking to reporters in Multan, the foreign minister addressed Bilawal's recent statements on the government's handling of NAP by saying: "I spoke to his [Bilawal's] father and also to the leader of the opposition Shahbaz Sharif over the phone and I wrote a letter to both as well. In the letter I said I am writing to you in two capacities: as the foreign minister as well as the vice chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf with the approval of the premiership of Imran Khan; let's sit and talk.
"You all [the opposition parties] are united in your stance regarding the plan. Are not all your parties signatories to the plan? Then let's take the matter forward together," he said, referring to his telephonic conversation and letters to Asif Ali Zardari and Sharif.
He said that Bilawal was adamant and instead responded by demanding that the whole parliament be briefed on NAP.
"I have no objections to that either. We are ready for that. I want to tell Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari sahib through the media: 'Please allay your concerns in writing to me. What sort of implementation do you want? What steps should we take to combat the forces that give shelter to terrorists? Guide us, tell us. We will give importance to your input and will try to incorporate it in NAP. But mere statements do not solve problems,'" he said.
He urged Bilawal to see the importance of Pakistan presenting a united stance before the world given that India was constantly engaging in efforts to pull the country down.
"You must see that India is trying to attack Pakistan. It is trying to get Pakistan pushed into FATF's blacklist from the 'grey list' and trying to diplomatically isolate Pakistan.
"Today India is trying to move a resolution in the [UN] Security Council against Pakistan which a lot of countries have presented — I do not wish to name them — and many countries are acting as spokespersons for it.
"Pakistan's united stance is in its best security interests and is in accordance with its national security requirements."
He once again called upon the PPP leader to give talks a chance. "I invite you to sit with us and give me your suggestions, verbally or in writing, and if you face trouble in coming, the [National] Assembly is a shared forum.
"Let us meet in the assembly and if you feel like your party members are not all on the same page yet then I am ready to come. The chamber of the leader of the opposition is available. I will tell [Sharif to make it available for us]," he stressed.
'Will not let our guard down'
Regarding peace overtures to India and the latter's recent change in tone with a message sent to Prime Minister Imran Khan ahead of Pakistan Day celebrations, the foreign minister said: "PTI was pushing for talks since day one. On July 26 the prime minister's message was 'let's talk'. If India is ready we were also never hesitant."
However, he warned against Pakistan raising its hopes too much.
"Until elections are over we will see a rise and fall in such rhetoric. We are ready for peace but that doesn't mean we will remain ignorant. We are aware of the cunning ones and their craftiness and we will not let our guard down and keep our preventative measures in place," he said.
When asked whether Pakistan will respond in kind if India changes its tone once again, Qureshi said: "We gave preference to peace before and will continue to put peace before anything else.
"However, if they act in aggression then we reserve the right to defend ourselves. We will defend ourselves and with pride. The armed forces, air forces and navy have proved they have the capability."
Visit to China
Qureshi said his visit to China last week was of immense importance and termed the discussions held there fruitful.
"China was an important tour because they played a great role in de-escalation [with India]. They spoke to us on the phone and then spoke on various forums as well and played their role very effectively," he said in praise of the all-weather friend that Pakistan sees in China.
"You know well that India wishes to raise a lot of issues before the sanctions committee and the UN Security Council. They [China] have stood by us when things went awry. I wanted that our talks with them and discussions remain ongoing.
"Our talks with them were very profitable. I want to let the nation know that they have said to us in clear terms that they were with us in the past and will remain with us. They give importance to our needs and will continue to do so," he said.