Neutral on Ukraine war, seeking deeper ties with Russia: Bilawal

Published June 11, 2023
This photo shows Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari during an interview with Al Jazeera TV on Saturday. — Screenshot courtesy: Al Jazeera English
This photo shows Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari during an interview with Al Jazeera TV on Saturday. — Screenshot courtesy: Al Jazeera English

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has said Pakistan is committed to maintaining relations with all the countries and seeking enhanced engagement with the Russian government through deep meaningful ties.

However, he said, the country wanted to maintain neutrality over the Ukraine conflict.

He expressed these views in response to a question during an interview with Al Jazeera TV, broadcast on Saturday.

In reply to another query, he said after the fall of Kabul, the international community had many expectations from the new rulers.

“Pakistan’s position is in line with the position of the international community,” he made it clear, adding that the international community wanted Taliban rulers to ensure women’s rights including access to education and that the Afghan soil should not be used for terrorist activities.

Says army’s ‘outside influence’ cannot continue, change must come

He said engagement of the global community with the new rulers of Afghanistan was the only solution as it was in the interest of all to have a secure and prosperous Afghanistan that was at peace with itself and with its neighbours. The world wanted the incumbent rulers to fulfil their commitment with the international community, he said.

The foreign minister, replying to a question, said that Pakistan faced security threats from the TTP terrorist outfit as different terrorist incidents occurred in Pakistan after the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan.

He reiterated that Islamabad wanted the Afghan Taliban to act against these terrorists and cited hosting of a recent meeting of Pakistan, China and Afghanistan which focused on threats of terrorism.

About ties with Iran, the foreign minister said that recently a border market was established in Balochistan at the Iran-Pakistan border to encourage bilateral trade, whereas the government was also working on electricity transmission from Iran. He termed the restoration of diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran a ‘positive development’.

“It is a positive news not only for the two countries, but for the whole region and for us,” he said.

He strongly rebuffed the allegations against China’s investment in Pakistan and said it was unfortunately a reflection of “biased attitude”. Pakistan was engaged with China through CPEC under which energy and road infrastructure projects were being completed, he added.

Democracy

Noting that Pakistan was at fork in the road towards democracy, the minister said most people wanted army to remain apolitical and not to intervene in politics of the country. He agreed that army had an outside influence that could not continue the way it was, and a change had to come.

“…We are the ones who not from today but from generations have been struggling for a change”, he said, but such a change was not possible overnight. “And we do not believe this change can come by attacking military institutions in the country,” he remarked.

He was of the opinion that change can come only if democratic forces and civilian institutions such as parliament take their place and assert themselves. “This is the only way the Pakistani democracy can be strengthened. When civilians take their own space, it will ease the army out of politics,” he said.

Published in Dawn, June 11th, 2023

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