PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s sharp and straight-forward answers to India Today journalist about questions on Pakistan Army and Donald Trump’s accusations will leave you stunned.
“What do you mean Pakistan Army is my army. And it doesn’t have a relationship with India. The Pakistan state has a relationship with India,” Bilawal Bhutto told the Indian journalist.
“You mess and poke with us as a state and the Pakistan Army needs to fight terrorists. We need a strong and capable army to defeat the terrorists in Pakistan. And for me it is also my purpose or my countrymen’s purpose to criticize my brave armed forces while they are battling terrorists in Pakistan.”
About a question on Donald Trump’s allegations against Pakistan, Bilawal Bhutto said the US President sent just one tweet on Pakistan where he got the figure wrong. “Don’t think Mr. Trump wanted to give the impression that America doesn’t pay its debt. The Coalition Support Fund is not aid to Pakistan. It’s the money which is due for the work Pakistan has already done fighting terrorism. As I said before if you want to fight a solution, we have to sit together and find the solution. And if you want to do popular politics which Modi Trump and Mr Modi us, this is not going to end extremism and terrorism.”
“We have to focus on the issue. We have to focus on countering violent extremism and defeating terrorism. We are not having a conversation on how to counter violent extremism. You know why because violent extremism is not Islam specific. You have extremists everywhere. You have extremists in Mynamar, you have extremists in India, you have extremists in America and you have extremists in Pakistan.”
To another question, Bilawal said some politicians in India have chosen to do more populist and more hate-driven politics, to feed off negative emotions of people, split communities on ethnic and religious lines and I don’t believe that is positive in any country.”
The security-focused interview also touched on the relationship between Pakistan and India, with the PPP leader saying that although things were not at their best at the moment, he felt there was still hope for the future.
“Despite hostilities on both sides and genuine complaints, ultimately the youth of both countries understand that the only solution is peace. We just have to figure out a way to get there.” However, he was quick to add that the relationship was not going to improve if India — and the world — continue to dictate to Pakistan.
“That’s not how a partnership works or builds. You have to have a conversation about what reservations perhaps Pakistan may have with India, and India will also have reservations about what is going on in Pakistan,” he asserted.
“You have those discussions not in front of the public and cameras, you have those discussions behind closed doors,” Bilawal explained to his interviewer.
He also commented on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s policies both before and after he became the Indian premier. “His image in Pakistan after the incidents in Gujarat is not positive,” he said, referring to Modi’s stint as the Indian state’s chief minister when deadly riots between Muslims and Hindus led to much bloodshed in 2002.
He also did not shy from giving his views on Kashmir. “In the age of social media, you cannot hide what’s happening in Kashmir on either side. But for social media to see bullet-riddled bodies in [India-held] Kashmir makes things a little difficult.”
Responding to a question asking him why Pakistan had not reciprocated Modi’s efforts to improve relations by going out of the way to visit Sharif’s in Raiwind, Bilawal said: “Modi’s trip to Pakistan, while perhaps intended to send a positive sign … [was not followed] up with any sort of state cooperation [which] sends the image that they’re just showing that they want to have peace but are not actually taking the concrete steps necessary.”
Asked what he makes of United States President Donald Trump’s tweets about Pakistan giving the US “nothing but lies and deceit”, Bilawal said: “I don’t think Trump wanted to give the impression that America doesn’t pay its debts.”
He added that Pakistan “needs a genuine progressive voice, a progressive alternative to the populist, hate-driven politics of the two other mainstream political parties in Pakistan.” “PPP has always been a progressive force in Pakistan and I feel that that is the way forward and that is the kind of politician I want to be.”
“We cannot tolerate prejudice, we cannot tolerate misogyny, we cannot tolerate discrimination, we cannot tolerate hate. And if we do not tolerate all these things, there won’t be any space for extremism,” he added.