WASHINGTON: Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Wednesday urged Afghanistan’s Tali­ban rulers on Wednesday to use their influence on Tehreek-i-Tali­ban Pakistan to bring peace and stability in the region.

Speaking at the US Institute of Peace in Washington, the foreign minister also urged the United States to take lead in dealing with the devastating effects of the changing climate, which he called a ‘man-made disaster’.

“Following the fall of Kabul, [it] won’t be wrong to say that the TTP has found a sanctuary in Afghanistan. We have had a ceasefire which was good. Hopefully, Afghan Taliban will use their influence on TTP so that the group accepts the Consti­tu­tion of Pakistan and disarm.”

The foreign minister, in interviews to various US and international media networks, also urged the United States to deal with Afgha­nistan’s current Tali­ban regime, even if it requ­ired Washington to “hold its nose” while doing so, warning that isolating the Taliban could have dangerous consequences for all.

Asked by AP’s interviewers if he meant the US needed to hold its nose and deal with Afghanistan’s ruling power, Mr Bhutto-Zardari said, “Pretty much.”

In an interview with AFP, he said the international community had already seen how “washing hands of Afghanistan” created unintended problems.

Afghanistan also figured prominently in the foreign minister’s interactions on Capitol Hill on Wednesday as one of his hosts, Jeanne Shaheen wrote after the meeting that the discussions focused on “continued support for our Afghan allies, women and girls’ empowerment and counterterrorism efforts.”

The senator also assured the foreign minister that “as Pakistan recovers from devastating floods, the Senate is committed to provide humanitarian support.”

Mr Bhutto-Zardari, who apparently extended his four-day stay in Washington for a day, urged American lawmakers to play their role in tackling climate catastrophes.

“Discussed the need for leveraging our strong parliamentary ties to tackle climate catastrophes like Pakistan Floods and plans on how we will build back better,” he said in a tweet released after a meeting with Senator Chris Van Hollen and Representatives Maxine Waters, Ilhan Omar, and Henry Cuellar in Washington.

Pakistan’s top diplomat, who began his interaction with US lawmakers on Tuesday evening, has a simple message for them: play your role in ensuring that countries like Pakistan do get ‘climate justice.’

“And justice would be that we work together globally, that we’re not left alone, to deal with the consequences of this tragedy,” he said in one of his interviews to the American media.

In his discussions on Afghanistan, Mr. Bhutto-Zardari said the Taliban had yet to have the time and ability to grapple with extremist groups as a government should. “For them to demonstrate their will to take on terrorist organizations, we need to help them build their capacity to also do so” before judging them, he told AP.

The foreign minister also emphasised the need to release Afghanistan’s funds held by America.

“I believe that our concerns of an economic collapse, of an exodus of refugees, of a threat of new recruits for (armed) organisations … outweigh concerns that there may be about their financial institutions,” he said.

Published in Dawn, September 29th, 2022

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