War or talks: Bilawal for reviewing counterterror policy

FM says Pakistan will not take a solo flight on the matter of recognition of Afghan govt

Picture source - Screengrab Al Jazeera

Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Friday said Pakistan would not take a solo flight to recognize the interim government of Afghanistan and stressed reviewing the country’s counterterrorism policy to prevent the resurgence of militancy.

At a press conference held on the six months of the government’s foreign policy, he stressed the need for an “in-camera review” to reform the approach on counterterrorism in a bid to prevent the factors that gave rise to militancy in the past. Asked if peace in Afghanistan meant countering the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), 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 re-examining the approach on counterterrorism viz-a-viz developments in the region.” “When we came to power, we decided to engage with Afghan authorities regardless of our differences for greater national interest. We won’t take a solo flight on the matter of recognition of the Afghan government,” he said.

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 not to let their country’s soil used against its neighbour. 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 fulfil the pledges, especially related to human rights and women’s education. He mentioned that the nation’s wholehearted support helped ending terrorism from the tribal areas, including North Waziristan. Bilawal said the coalition government had put in good efforts to restore the foreign policy objectives by holding ‘meaningful’ high-level diplomatic engagements. He mentioned that the country’s foreign policy was on positive trajectory to help achieve the goals of development by addressing important issues, including counterterrorism, security and economic cooperation.

He said the government’s focus was on prioritising national interest and emphasised maintaining a balanced relationship and a positive outreach with all countries, including the United States and China. He said the relations between Pakistan and the US had been “de-hyphenated”. The foreign minister said persistent implementation of both action plans, mainly countering money-laundering and terror-financing, would remain high on the government’s agenda. He mentioned that due to GSP Plus, the country’s export outlook witnessed an exponential growth of 80 per cent in recent times.

The FM said Pakistan was actively pursuing the activities at various international forums, including the United Nations, Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Conference of Parties (COP27) and G-77 etc.

When asked about the change in stance of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan regarding the ‘US cipher conspiracy’, he said, “We welcome the latest U-turn of Mr Khan on leaving the American conspiracy behind.” He stressed that there had never been a conspiracy by the US as was earlier stated by Imran. He said Pakistan and the US enjoyed historic relationship in the interest of their people. He termed current political climate in the country ‘a storm in the teacup’, regretting the apathy of Imran in the midst of several challenges faced by the country.

The foreign minister emphasised focusing on ‘trade instead of aid’ with other countries to put the country on the path of economic stability. He regretted that wrongdoings of the past resulted in agricultural and educational crisis in the country.

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