FOREIGN Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi speaks to reporters.—APP
FOREIGN Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi speaks to reporters.—APP

MULTAN: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Sunday said moving a no-confidence motion was a constitutional right of the opposition and the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and its allies would defeat it politically.

“By hinting at a no-confidence move against Prime Minister Imran Khan, Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has recognised him (Khan) as the constitutional prime minister. Now (Bilawal should) stop calling him a selected prime minister,” the foreign minister said.

He told the media that the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) was an unnatural alliance because of the differences of opinion among its major components — the PPP, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl.

“First they announced they would resign their assembly seats but it did not happen. Then they announced a long march from Jan 31 but this also is not going to happen,” said Mr Qureshi.

Calls PDM an unnatural alliance of opposition parties

He claimed that the only challenge for the PTI government was price hike. “To overcome the shortfall of wheat flour, the prime minister has ordered the import of wheat,” he said, adding that sugar mafia had again increased the prices and to counter it, the government had decided to import more sugar.

Answering a question, the foreign minister said increase in gas prices was also one of the challenges for the government but the nation should see who was behind overpriced agreements. “It was the PML-N government and we are forced to honour these agreements. The parties which approved electricity agreements are today complaining of price hike. But now we are going to control the situation by devising better strategies,” he added.

Replying to a query regarding the appointment of Justice Azmat Saeed as head of the committee for inquiry into Broadsheet issue, the minister said the opposition would reject each person the government would nominate.

About the ruling party’s foreign funding case, Mr Qureshi said the PTI had provided details of 40,000 donors. “Are the PPP and PML-N ready to provide details of their donors?”

Regarding the recent travel ban imposed by the UN on its staff stopping them from flying by any Pakistani airlines, the foreign minister said there was an issue with the European Union (EU) in connection with the licences of pilots because of which the ban had been imposed. He said: “It is a temporary issue which will be resolved soon.”

While denying the reports of “signing any agreement with Turkey or Azerbaijan because of which Saudi Arabia was not happy”, the foreign minister said Pakistan and Turkey supported Azerbaijan over its disputed areas.

Answering a question about the appointment of retired military officers on key posts, the minister said there was no restriction in the Constitution for doing so. “Appointments of such nature have been made during the rules of the PPP and PML-N as well,” the minister said.

Pakistan-US ties

About the US, Mr Qureshi said he had a very short message for the Democrats that a lot of changes had taken place after they left the government four years back.

“We want to work with the new elected government (of the US) and are hopeful that there is consistency and harmony in the present thinking and policies of Pakistan and the US. The world and region have changed, Pakistan has changed and they have to engage with a new Pakistan. Even India has changed. Could you see the secular and shining India? No, even today the voices are being raised within India it is not a secular India,” he said.

Replying to a question regarding the Afghan peace process and new US administration, the foreign minister said that both Pakistan and the US wanted peace in Afghanistan and had the same policy.

“Pakistan always preferred a dialogue as it believes that there is no military solution to the conflict. They (US) want reduction in violation there (in Afghanistan). We always suggested that leading to a ceasefire could result in reduction in violence. To describe Pakistan’s policy outlines, I have written a letter to Antony Blinken and we will discuss it in detail in coming days,” he said.

Published in Dawn, January 25th, 2021

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