‘Pakistan Army and all such institutions should play their constitutional and legal role in accordance with the law’.
Pakistan Foreign Minister, Bilawal Bhutto addressed a news briefing at the UN Headquarters in New York recently. Following are some questions and answers from the briefing.
How do you characterise your relationships with Russia?
Pakistan has relationships with all states and all governments in the world and whoever happens to have those governments, we also have official and diplomatic relations with them. There are no personal relationships between individuals and there are only relationships between states and governments.
Because of a trip to Moscow by the former prime minister, there is a wave of disappointment in Europe and America for not condemning the Russian invasion. Where does your government stand and how are you going to make a rapprochement towards this policy?
About the former Pakistan prime minister’s trip to Russia, I would absolutely defend the prime minister. He conducted the trip as part of his foreign policy and without knowing that no one is psychic and no one has a sixth sense; there’s no way we could have possibly known that that would be the time [when] the current conflict will start. And I believe it is very unfair to punish Pakistan for such an innocent action. Of course, Pakistan is absolutely clear as far as principles of the United Nations, including that of non-use of force and we stand by these principles. We do not wish to be part of any conflict. In fact, we will continue to emphasise on the importance of peace, dialogue and diplomacy to resolve this conflict as soon as possible. And we will certainly not take any side or take the side of any aggressor within this context.
What do you think of the reputed nemesis of Pakistani democracy, especially of the PPP, and what is your considered opinion about the military establishment, considering your current position?
Nemesis is not the word that I would use. The Pakistan Army is not the army of any one political party; it is a national institution which belongs to each of us. It has always and consistently been the view of the Pakistan People’s Party and it is in our manifesto that all such institutions should play their constitutional and legal role in accordance with the law. That’s why we’ve consistently advocated for them to be apolitical and the success of the No-Confidence Motion in Pakistan, the first time a democratic constitutional procedure has been used to oust a prime minister, unlike in the past where only unconstitutional and undemocratic moves were deployed, it is a success of democracy and an achievement of the Pakistani Constitution; it goes a long way in speaking about the progress that has been made by Pakistani institutions. Obviously, nothing happens in a vacuum and this one achievement does not wash away the effects of undemocratic steps that have occurred in our history.
Do you feel that when the U.S. forces withdrew from Afghanistan, they left a vacuum for terrorism in Pakistan?
We are concerned that if the humanitarian crisis remains unaddressed, if 90% of the population of Afghanistan is on the verge of going below the poverty line, and if the Afghan economy is allowed to collapse, then things will go from bad to worse. Terrorism in Afghanistan is a concern of all countries in the region and for international forces. We are all concerned as to whether the new regime in Afghanistan has the capacity or the will to deal with terrorist groups. We are looking to the Taliban regime that they will live up to international obligations and one such obligation is to ensure that no terrorist activity would take place and Afghan soil would not be used for terrorist activity. We are hoping that the Afghan regime would do whatever they can to discourage terrorist elements and we are also working with the international community to help alleviate the humanitarian and economic crisis developing in Afghanistan.