ISLAMABAD: “There have been complaints from journalists in Afghanistan that women are protesting for their rights and we are concerned that girls are not being allowed to go to schools,” said Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari in an interview with BBC World on Tuesday.
“We continue to encourage the new regime in Afghanistan to live up to international expectations if they want international recognition,” he said according to a press release issued here after the interview.
The PPP chairman said that as soon as the situation in Afghanistan developed, the PPP called for the government of Pakistan to hold a session of parliament.
“As with various issues in our country, we have been unable to form a national consensus. We require an inclusive foreign policy that is per the will of the parliament not of any individual,” he said.
Responding to a question, Mr Bhutto-Zardari said Pakistan’s influence over Afghanistan was often exaggerated, however, Pakistan should play its role in encouraging an inclusive government in Afghanistan, for the protection of women and children there.
“We should work ... to ensure that Afghan land is not used to promote terrorism in the region.”
The interviewer asked a question about the civilian government having little say in matters, to which Bilawal responded by saying that it was true that the democratic space in Pakistan was ‘shrinking’, especially during Imran Khan’s government.
“In order for that space to be regained, it is the choice of democratic people of the country to play an active role in the political system, through the parliament and media.”
The role of various agencies in Afghanistan over the past two decades will be discussed in history, he said.
“Everyone seems to be blaming one another, but it is important to work together for a positive outcome for the sake of the region. For the women and youth of Afghanistan who have so much potential, it is worrisome that their potential is in danger.”
The PPP leader further said: “We are very concerned about the potential blowbacks of the developments in Afghanistan as well as the links between Tehreek-i-Taliban Afghanistan and Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan. We have suffered immensely at the hands of violent extremism. I lost my mother, the former prime minister Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto to Islamic extremism within Pakistan. In order to counter the threat of extremism, we need determination from the government of Pakistan to ensure no space for terrorism or extremism.”
He said: “What we have learned from Afghanistan is that extremism is not battled with bombs alone, but ideas and opportunities. We have to provide for the people of Pakistan who have a stake in the political and economic system. When there is this sort of deprivation, all sorts of negative influences can take advantage of the situation.
“The people of Pakistan and Afghanistan are both exhausted due to the war, we hope for the best but should also prepare for the worst. We are already seeing an increase in the activities of TTP within Pakistan ... we have to tackle this issue through the United Nations to ensure that the vulnerable people, ethnic minorities and women of Afghanistan receive aid.”
The PPP chairman said that he welcomed what Prime Minister Imran Khan had expressed in his interview to the BBC, that recognising the Afghan Taliban government should come after international consensus.
“While I welcome the approach, I hope he creates that consensus within Pakistan. The Pakistani parliament unfortunately has not met ever since the recent developments in Pakistan, stakeholders within Pakistan have not been consulted.”
Published in Dawn, September 22nd, 2021