‘It was our right’: Bilawal backs Pakistan’s ‘proportional’ response to airspace violation by Iran

Published January 18, 2024
A picture of PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari from an interview. — DawnNewsTV
A picture of PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari from an interview. — DawnNewsTV

Former foreign minister and PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Thursday endorsed Pakistan’s strikes in Iran after the western neighbour violated the country’s airspace, saying the response was “proportional and our right”.

Iran on Tuesday had laun­ched attacks in Pakistan targeting what it described as bases for the militant group Jaish al-Adl in the border town of Panjgur in Balochistan, Iranian state media reported, prompting strong condemnation from Islamabad and downgrading of diplomatic ties.

The Iranian strikes were part of a series of attacks carried out by Iran in recent days in Syria and Iraq as a response to recent terrorist attacks on its territory. They have heightened concerns about regional stability, particularly amid ongoing conflicts in the Middle East.

Earlier today, the Foreign Office and the Inter-Services Public Relations said military strikes were carried out against hideouts inside Iran used by terrorists responsible for recent attacks in Pakistan.

Questioned about Pakistan’s response and the overall incident in an interview with Dawn News, Bilawal condemned the Iranian violation and said, “No one should have the wrong idea that they can attack Pakistan or violate its sovereignty.

“I think Pakistan’s targeting of terrorist groups in Iran, our response was not only proportional but our right as a right to self-defence under international law.”

Bilawal expressed concern that the idea of the issue spiralling into a regional conflict was a “dangerous thought”, adding that any such escalation into a full-blown conflict would be dangerous for both Pakistan and Iran, as well as the region.

The PPP leader said he was surprised by the incident due to the high level of engagement he pursued with Iran as the foreign minister, adding that the progress of relations with the neighbour during his term exceeded even that in the past five to 10 years.

Regarding security concerns between the two countries, Bilawal said Pakistan’s stance was that Iran’s security was its own security, adding that the response was reciprocal.

“We devised different mechanisms to address each other’s concerns. We made many forums and modalities to talk with each other and find solutions together to such issues.”

Bilawal hoped that better sense would prevail and multiple pre-existing forums at various levels would be used to address current concerns between the neighbours.

“A trend has begun and we want to condemn it as well that there is a practice in our region to carry out an international activity to lift domestic pressure and appease our own people.”

Bilawal said there was pressure within Iran for various reasons but he said it would have been better if such an incident had not occurred due to the brotherly relations between the two countries.

He opined that Iran had carried out the attack to defuse its internal pressure and show that “it is doing something”.

“The whole nation and the country are standing with the armed forces and we have made clear and showed everyone that Pakistan does not compromise on its sovereignty.

“I hope we will stress on diplomacy on both sides so there is no escalation in this fight. The consequences of this will be dangerous for Pakistan, our neighbour and the region.”

Bilawal said it was neither in Iran’s nor Pakistan’s benefit to go to war and terrorism was a “joint issue” in the region that needed to be solved together instead of fought alone.

“If we accuse each other then the terrorists win [because] this is what they want that tensions and chaos spread in the region. It is our responsibility and Iran’s and other countries to not play into their hands and combat them together through engaging in diplomacy.”

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