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MULTAN: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said on Sunday that it was the need of the hour in the prevailing critical situation that the political leadership of the country should demonstrate unity for the sake of the country’s interest.

Talking to the media here, he said, “On the directive of the prime minister, I have written letters to the political leadership of the country about the implementation of the National Action Plan [to counter terrorism]. Whatever [Pakistan Peoples Party leader] Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari wants in this regard, he should tell us and give his proposals in writing. We will respect his point of view. Bilawal Bhutto should suggest to us what line of action we should adopt against the banned organisations.”

It may be recalled that lately the PPP chairman has been questioning the sincerity of the PTI government in taking action against the banned organisations.

Mr Qureshi said if Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Shahbaz Sharif was not willing to attend a briefing on the NAP, “I myself am ready to visit him” (to convince him to attend the briefing. “We all have to sit together for the sake of the country’s interest,” the foreign minister said.

Pakistan reiterates dialogue offer to India

He said NAP would be implemented in letter and spirit.

Replying a question regarding an alliance between the PPP and the PML-N for bringing an “in-house change”, he said if PPP wanted to enter into an alliance with PML-N, it was the political right of the two the parties.

“However many ideological workers of the PPP like Aitizaz Ahsan are opposed to any alliance of the party with the PML-N,” Mr Qureshi claimed. “A statement of Mr Ahsan should be sufficient for Mr Bhutto-Zardari and the PPP leadership to realise the sentiment [of the party’s ideological workers]. The PPP leadership could review its decision due to the pressure of its ideological workers.”

Ties with India

On relations with India, the foreign minister said Pakistan had never hesitated to hold dialogue with India. “Pakistan is ready for talks with India at whatever place New Delhi suggests,” he added.

“Our priority is peace but it should not be construed as our weakness,” he made it clear. “We will not compromise on principles, particularly on the Kashmir issue.”

He said India was trying to isolate Pakistan on diplomatic level as it wanted Pakistan’s name to be pushed from the grey list of the Financial Action Task Force to the blacklist.

“India recently attempted an act of aggression on Pakistan but now has sent a message of greeting [on the occasion of Pakistan Day] within the time span of one month which is a great change and a diplomatic victory of Pakistan,” Mr Qureshi said. “I as foreign minister consider this act welcoming. We welcome the goodwill gesture of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. However, I want to make it clear that India will show fluctuation in its attitude till elections. We understand the cunning [nature] of India and would not show any negligence regarding our security,” he said.

Mr Qureshi said Pakistan reserved the right to defend itself if India committed any aggression.

He said that a number of countries were supporting India in the United Nations and this situation called for unity within the Pakistani nation.

“India is trying to isolate us at every forum through diplomatic ways. I recently went to China for consultation in this regard and... after this visit, a clear message was conveyed by China that it stands by Pakistan like in the past”.

Commenting on the attack on Christchurch mosques, he said the purpose of the terrorist was to terrorise the world and to establish white supremacy.

“We appreciate the prime minister and the people of New Zealand for the way they have reacted. They have defeated the elements involved in spreading Islamophobia,” he said.

He said PTI leadership did not want former prime minister Nawaz Sharif to face any hardship. “Proper medical facilities are being provided to him and I pray for his early recovery,” he said.

Published in Dawn, March 25th, 2019