Pakistan won’t hold talks with TTP: Bilawal

Published January 20, 2023
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari attends a dialogue session at the World Economic Forum. — Screengrab
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari attends a dialogue session at the World Economic Forum. — Screengrab

Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has said that Pakistan’s leadership will not hold talks with terrorist organisations that don’t respect the country’s laws and the Constitution, adding that the former government adopted an appeasement policy towards the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban (TTP).

“The new leadership in Pakistan, both political and military, has been absolutely clear. There will be no talks with terrorist organisations that don’t respect our laws and Constitution.

“I am confident that if we can work with the Afghan interim government, which has influence over these groups, we will be successful in maintaining our security,” he said in a wide-ranging interview with The Washington Post in Davos, Switzerland where he is attending the World Economic Forum.

Commenting on the previous PTI government, the foreign minister said: “Imran Khan gave the TTP a place to hide. Not only did he release their prisoners who were in Pakistan’s custody, but also engaged in a dialogue with them.

“He (Imran) has always been ideologically sympathetic to their point of view,” Bilawal said.

The foreign minister was also asked whether Pakistan had hoped that the new Afghan government would act against the TTP, to which he responded: “Our hope, and in fact, their agreement was that their soil would not be used for terrorism. We do hope to cooperate with them to deal with terrorists that are a concern to us.

“We are both victims of terrorism. I don’t believe that the Afghanistan government will be successful on their own against terrorism, and neither will we be successful on our own against terrorism. We have to work together.”

‘Pakistan not interested in launching cross-border operation in Afghanistan’

FM Bilawal also said that Pakistan had no intention of launching a cross-border operation in Afghanistan

“We’re not interested in launching a cross-border operation, nor would we want to advocate for more military intervention after what we’ve already seen was the longest war,” FM Bilawal told Anadolu.

FM Bilawal reiterated Pakistan’s demand for the Afghan government to weed out terrorist organisations and offered to help in this regard.

“The most legitimate and the most viable way for us to address the issue of terrorism will be for the interim government in Afghanistan to take appropriate action against these groups.

“What we will prefer is for the interim government of Afghanistan to take action against terrorists that may be in their country, and we are ready and willing to help them increase their capacity and ability to deal with that threat.”

‘Pakistan facing multidimensional economic challenges’

On Pakistan’s economic conditions, FM Bilawal said the country is grappling with “multidimensional challenges”.

“I think these are incredibly challenging economic times for everyone, particularly where we are seeing the fallout from Covid, the consequences of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and the sanctions associated with that having an outside effect on the [global] economy,” he said.

“Everyone is facing inflation and difficult economic problems.”

For Pakistan, he explained, an additional burden was problems related to Afghanistan.

“We’ve seen the fall of Kabul and the consequences that has had on our economy,” he said.

Adding to that is the devastation caused by the “catastrophic climate event” last year, he said, referring to the deadly floods that claimed hundreds of lives and caused widespread losses that government estimates place at around $30 billion.

This was a disaster “on a scale that has never been recorded in Pakistan’s history”, the foreign minister emphasised.

“The world has stood in solidarity with Pakistan in this difficult time. This is an important message on climate change and it also gives us a confidence boost as far as our economy is concerned,” he added.

“Obviously, we do have to take all the necessary measures domestically to address our economic challenges.”​​​​​​​

Urges ‘diplomatic engagement’ for Russia-Ukraine conflict

Commenting on the geopolitical situation during a dialogue session titled Security and Coordination in Davos on Friday, the PPP chairman expressed hope to see a more proactive approach from both sides to engage in diplomacy in the pursuit of peace.

He advised world powers to create space for “dialogue and diplomatic engagement” to resolve the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

“I believe diplomacy is the key thing that is missing,” he said. “Our hope is that this does not turn into the next forever war and is resolved sooner than later.”

Highlighting Pakistan’s experience of witnessing a long Afghan war in the neighbourhood, FM Bilawal said the conflict was ultimately resolved at the negotiating table.

“I feel we wasted time because, in 2002, the Afghan Taliban were willing to surrender and negotiate,” the foreign minister said. “But we did not take that offer seriously and had to do the same ten years later in 2022.”

Bilawal said geopolitics these days was reflecting a lot of domestic politics, adding that hyper-polarisation and hyper-partisanship were spreading all over the world.

“The international order and institutional framework have been fragmented and undermined,” he said. “What we would like to see is a more normative functioning to solve issues.”

FM Bilawal said repercussions of the war were not limited to Europe but extended to Pakistan in the form of high energy and food prices.

“As far as support for the UNSC resolutions, international law, and humanitarian crisis are concerned, we share the same views as the world,” the foreign minister said as he shared his views on the Russia-Ukraine conflict. “However, we don’t see the conflict as the first in its time where the UN resolutions were violated.”

Bilawal termed it ironic that UN laws were applied in Ukraine but not in Iraq.

“We find it sad that the UNSC resolutions that mean so much to Europe and West but are nothing more than the paper they were written on when it comes to India-Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir.”

He also called for the revamping and restructuring of international financial institutions to address complaints of the global south.

“We should return to normative functioning of international institutions for the resolution of disputes and other challenges including climate change being faced by the global community,” Bilawal said.

The foreign minister added that the prevailing disputes which have endangered the world would have been resolved amicably if the international institutions under the UN framework begin working according to the needs of the current era.

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