'Pakistan not in position to deprive itself of any forum': Bilawal on skipping US democracy summit

Published December 13, 2021
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari speaks to the media in Karachi on Monday. — DawnNewsTV
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari speaks to the media in Karachi on Monday. — DawnNewsTV

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said on Monday that Pakistan should not have skipped the US-hosted virtual summit on democracy.

More than 100 nations, including Pakistan, were invited to the two-day virtual summit on Dec 9-10. China, the United States' principal rival, was not invited but Taiwan was.

Pakistan did not attend the summit after earlier issuing a vague statement which said that Islamabad would like to engage with Washington on the issue of democracy “at an opportune time in the future”.

Responding to a question from a reporter while addressing a press conference in Karachi, Bilawal said that Pakistan was not in a position to "deprive" itself of any forum.

"Even if an ally raises objections, we can raise their views and our views [at the forum] but we should never cede space." The PPP chairman said that in his opinion, this was a "mistake" at a foreign policy level.

Read: A summit too high to scale?

Last week, Prime Minister Imran Khan also said Pakistan desired not be a part of any political bloc but instead wanted to play its role in bridging gaps between the US and China.

Addressing the Islamabad Conclave 2021, which had the theme "Peaceful and Prosperous South Asia", the prime minister said: "The situation is going towards a [new] Cold War and blocs are forming.

"Pakistan should try its best to stop the formation of these blocs because we should not become a part of any bloc," he said.

'PM's health card has a limit'

During the press conference, Bilawal also compared the healthcare provided by the Sindh government and the PTI government.

"Compare the hospitals runs by the Sindh government with those run by the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation," he said during the presser that focused on the recent local government bill passed by the Sindh Assembly.

"Look at the state of these hospitals," he said, adding that the provincial government will now look after them. "We believe in 100pc free healthcare. Our hospitals are working on providing the poor with healthcare facilities that are at par with international standards."

Bilawal said PM Imran, who earlier today launched a health insurance programme to cover the entire province of Punjab, was trying to show off the health card, but it had a "limit".

"The health card can't cover a day's expenses for the Covid-19 intensive care unit. [But] the Sindh government covers all of your expenses."

The PPP chairman said that this was also the case with open-heart surgery. "We cover the day [of the procedure] and the expenses for the medication you have to buy for the rest of your life."

He said that the PTI's health card also didn't cover post-operative care. "We cover the procedure itself as well as post-operative care at Sindh hospitals which offer free-of-cost liver and kidney transplants."

Bilawal said that the health card was an attempt to take money from government hospitals and hand it over to private facilities which was an "injustice".

He also challenged the Centre, and the governments in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab to show one hospital that could compete with the National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases (NICVD) or the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre.

Bilawal defends LG bill

The PPP chairman also defended the local government bill recently passed by the Sindh Assembly, and said that while the opposition had the right to its own opinion, it did not have the right to "its own facts".

He claimed that the PPP was the only party that was in favour of devolution of powers. He claimed that the Punjab government had passed a "one-sided" law in this regard, while the Centre was trying to hold local government elections in Islamabad through an ordinance.

"The devolution of financial, political and administrative powers has not happened before in the country's history," he said, adding that it will improve the conditions of cities across the province.

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