Says Afghan peace crucial for Pakistan, region; Islamabad needs to review internal security, terrorism policies
Ijaz Kakakhel Islamabad
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Friday said that the Pakistan-United States relationship was witnessing a new beginning adding that he was in contact with his American counterpart.
Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, the foreign minister said that the Pakistan-United States relations had a one-point agenda in the past. “As part of this one-point agenda, Pakistan used to face pressure from the US for doing more in war against terrorism,” he stated. “We have reached here from a difficult period. There were many difficulties when I assumed the office. The efforts of last five to six months have yielded good results,” Bilawal said.
“We formulated the foreign policy after a detailed and careful analysis. The first meeting was held with the Chinese foreign minister. Resolving the issue of sending students to China was a success,” he added. “Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif visited China. It was a successful visit as 17 important agreements had been signed,” he maintained.
“After assuming the office, my contact with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken took place on telephone. In the past, Pakistan faced problems due to a distance in its relations with the US. We practically improved our relations with the US,” he declared.
“The Pakistan-United States relations have reached the best level. Dilawar Saeed visited Pakistan which increased investment opportunities. The Chief of Army Staff and the finance minister also visited the United States,” he pointed out. He said that the government wants their relations to be on an equal basis, and added that the relations between the two countries were headed in the right direction. He said Pakistan and US enjoy historic relations and recalled how China has proved to be an all-weather-tested friend of Pakistan.
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has said Pakistan wants to intensify its engagements with the world to safeguard its national interests for the betterment of the people.
Bilawal also said that Pakistan had achieved success in the Financial Action Task Force.
“The countries that opposed Pakistan in the FATF had asked to remove Pakistan from the grey list. Even Pakistan’s friendly countries are not yet there in the FATF where Pakistan has reached,” he pointed out.
“Not only Pakistan but also the European countries benefitted from GSP plus. The United Nations General Assembly meeting was successful for Pakistan. In the UNGA meeting, almost every country spoke about the floods in Pakistan,” he added. “In COP 27 too, Pakistan presented its case that it has suffered the most from the climate change. Pakistan chaired the G77 meeting and shared its experience with the world,” he informed the media.
“The young foreign ministers of the world gathered at the Pakistani embassy in the United States. This meeting of young foreign ministers was appreciated by the world,” he maintained.
“The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is gaining importance in the world. Pakistan achieved many achievements in the SCO meeting,” he added.
Reflecting on the Afghan policy, he said the government doesn’t want to take a solo flight on the matter of recognition oof Afghan government. “When we came to power, we decided to engage with Afghan authorities regardless of our differences for the greater national interest. We won’t take a solo flight on the matter of recognition of Afghan govt.”
Asked if peace in Afghanistan meant countering the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, he said it was important to internally review the policy. “Never think that the matter of TTP is as black-and-white as either it would be war or negotiations with them,” he said, highlighting that Pakistan in recent years had undergone a successful journey to eliminate terrorism and extremism from its soil. However, he said, “There is nothing wrong with reexamining the approach on counter-terrorism viz-a-viz developments in the region”.
On closure of Chaman border, he said terrorist attacks on Pakistan’s security forces from the Afghan side led to closure of the border and urged the Afghan government to take measures to not let their country’s soil used against its neighbor. He said peace in Afghanistan was crucial for Pakistan and the region, and urged the international community to get engaged with the interim government of Afghanistan to avert a humanitarian crisis. He also called upon the authorities in Afghanistan to fulfill the pledges, especially related to human rights and women’s education.
Terming the killing of senior journalist Arshad Sharif a ‘traumatic incident’, he said serious efforts were being made with regard to proper conclusion of the case. He said Pakistan People’s Party always stressed prioritizing the issues pertaining to the citizens of Pakistan and rising above the politics in their interest.
Responding to a question about Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan’s claims that the US government was behind the regime change operation, Bilawal said Imran in his latest speech had himself backed down from his claims. “We welcome Imran Khan’s latest U-turn on the matter of leaving American conspiracy behind,” Bilawal said, adding that he wouldn’t like to drag this matter any further.
Bilawal further said that Pakistan perhaps needed to review its internal security policies and decisions in the wake of rising terrorist incidents and protests against them. He said the residents of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and South Waziristan had always supported peace and confronted terrorism. “Obviously if they feel, right or wrong, that terrorists are returning, they are protesting which is their right. Our responsibility as the government and the state is to ensure peace, rule of law and the state’s writ.