‘Kabul’s inaction on TTP due to mixed signals by Pakistan’

Published February 21, 2023
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari an interview with German broadcaster DW Urdu. — Picture via PPP/YouTube
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari an interview with German broadcaster DW Urdu. — Picture via PPP/YouTube

FOREIGN Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has said that mixed signals from the Pakistan side were responsible for the Afghan Taliban’s inaction against the outlawed TTP.

In an interview with German broadcaster DW Urdu, the foreign minister said the previous government was asking the interim Afghan government to facilitate reconciliation with the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan and had plans to resettle the militants in Pakistan. But every Pakistani was demanding that terrorists who were involved in heinous attacks such as the Army Public School massacre could never be “our friends”, he added.

Earlier in an interview with CNBC, the foreign minister blamed the PTI government for negotiating with terrorists without any precondition. Calling it a “policy of appeasement,” the foreign minister said it blew up in Pakistan’s face.

“Unfortunately, following the fall of Kabul, the government that preceded ours started negotiating with these very same terrorist groups and without preconditions such as disarming,” the foreign minister told CNBC on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference.

Bilawal says Imran’s ‘policy of appeasing’ terrorists ended by PDM-led govt

However, he added that the new government and the military leadership have “put a full stop to the policy of appeasement”.

“Those people who don’t accept Pakistan and don’t accept the Constitution, I don’t think negotiating with them is in the interest of Pakistan or its people,” he told DW Urdu.

The PPP chairman added that the withdrawal of western forces has given space to various terrorist groups in Afghanistan which have caused immense challenges for Pakistan.

“We have a very porous border [with Afghanistan] that the new government doesn’t have the capacity to man,” he told CNBC.

“We are confident that we’ll be able to take on the terrorist groups that are functioning within Pakistan.”

He added that till the terrorist threats emanating out of Afghanistan are add­ressed, Pakistan will be in a high-risk security phase.

Pakistan still hopes some action would be taken against the outlawed groups and Afghanistan has been told that this issue can affect bilateral relations between the two countries, he told DW Urdu.

Imran’s political future

When asked about the political future of former prime minister Imran Khan, Mr Bhutto-Zardari said he “never says never in politics”.

In his interview with CNBC, the foreign minister said if Mr Khan strives to pursue a democratic path and commits to play a constitutional role, he can have a future.

The foreign minister added that Mr Khan’s ouster through a vote of no-confidence motion was the first time parliament removed a prime minister in a democratic way.

However, since his ouster, Mr Khan has been asking the army for help in getting back to power, the foreign minister said.

He added that the former army chief had said in a speech that the military used to intervene in politics and now they want to step away. “If the military says it wants to change its controversial conduct constitutionally, it should be welcomed.”

The PPP chairman told CNBC that “our opposition thinks that the military should play its role in politics. They want the military to help them bring them back to power.”

Economy

Mr Bhutto-Zardari said widespread devastation of standing crops due to flood, combined with the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine had impacted Pakistan’s economy.

On Pakistan’s ability to honour its debt repayments, the foreign minister said there should be no doubt about Pakistan’s ability to live up to its economic commitments even though recent events have thrown the economy off track.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari told DW Urdu that Pakistan was taking a number of steps to solve the economic crisis.

The minister added that Pakistan was looking to export manpower to earn forex reserves and also resume trade talks with the US. Moreover, countries in the Middle East and China have shown a willingness to help Pakistan but it is contingent upon the arrangement with the IMF, the minister told DW Urdu.

Published in Dawn, February 21st, 2023

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