• Says unfair of West to pressure Islamabad to take sides
• Meets PML-Q leaders, party legislators

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday said Pakistan would not change or downgrade its brotherly relations with China no matter what the pressure.

In an interview with Liu Xin of China-state media TV, CGTN, PM Khan said it was “very unfair” of the United States and other western powers to pressure countries like Pakistan to take sides, questioning, “Why do we have to take sides?”

“We should have good relations with everyone,” he added.

Mr Khan said a “strange, great rivalry” was taking place in the region, which everybody knew about.

“The US formed a regional alliance called ‘Quad’ that includes India and couple of other countries,” he said, adding that “if pressure is put on Pakistan to change its relations or downgrade its ties with China, it would not happen.”

The prime minister emphatically said: “Relationship between Pakistan and China is very deep, it is not just the governments, it’s people-to-people relationship.”

He recalled how China “always stood with us” whenever the country was in trouble politically or internationally or in a conflict with its neighbour, in an apparent reference to India.

“In good times, everyone stands with you but in your difficult, tough times, bad times, you remember those people who stood by you. That’s why you will find that in Pakistan, people always have a special fondness for people in China,” he added.

When asked how ties between the two countries could deepen further, the prime minister replied: “Number one is trade.”

Mr Khan termed the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) the “biggest thing happening in Pakistan” and the economic future the country was moving towards.

The political relationship between Pakistan and China had gotten stronger as well because “whatever happens in any international forum, Pakistan and China stand together”, he said.

Last month, PM Khan and his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang wrote letters to each other to mark 70 years of Pakistan-China friendship and vowed to further strengthen ties between the two states.

“On behalf of the government and people of Pakistan, as well as on my own behalf, I wished to extend my heartiest felicitations to you on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Pakistan.

“21st May 1951, the day when our relations were formally established, has been a watershed moment in our history. Our two people and successive leaderships and governments have made indefatigable efforts to foster, cement, and strengthen our ties. Our time-tested relationship is built around lasting values of mutual respect, mutual trust, and mutual understanding,” the prime minister said in his letter to his Chinese counterpart.

According to the PM Office, the Chinese prime minister, in his letter, said China and Pakistan were friendly neighbours linked by mountains and waters.

PM meets PML-Q leaders

Prime Minister Khan met Minister for Housing Tariq Bashir Cheema and member of the National Assembly (MNA) Moonis Elahi, who did not attend the prime minister’s dinner reception on Monday that caused speculations.

According to the PM Office, provision of relief to common man in the budget, especially positive results of measures taken for steering the backward segments of society out of poverty and growing employment opportunities created by economic growth due to development projects, were discussed.

The ongoing projects of the housing ministry also came under discussion.

Meanwhile, Senator Seemi Ezdi and MNAs Andleeb Abbas, Shanila Ruth, Nusrat Wahid and Ghazala Saifi called on PM Khan and discussed matters relating to the budget.

The prime minister also met MNAs from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Parliamentary Secretary of Ministry of Defence Malik Anwar Taj, MNAs Imran Khattak, Junaid Akbar, Shaukat Ali, Saleem Rehman, Arbab Amir and Khial Zaman attended the meeting.

The legislators spoke about problems being faced by their respective constituencies as well as the ongoing development projects.

Published in Dawn, June 30th, 2021

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