Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Associated Press interview: New Pakistani finance minister calls for better relationship with US

United Nations ( Associated Press) – Pakistan’s new foreign minister says the United States and his country should move on from past tensions over Afghanistan and enter a new engagement after years of strained relations under former prime minister Imran Khan. are.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, 33, the son of assassinated Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, spoke in an interview with The Associated Press in New York, where he was attending meetings on the global food crisis at the United Nations headquarters this week. He has also held talks with top diplomats, including an hour-long discussion with US Secretary of State Tony Blinken.

Bhutto Zardari calls meeting with Blinken “Very encouraging and very positive and productive.”

“We believe that Pakistan should continue to engage with the US at all levels,” he said. “This meeting was a really important first step.”

Bhutto Zardari co-chairs one of the two largest parties in Pakistan’s unequal governing coalition, which spans the political spectrum from leftist to radically religious. The coalition removed Khan in a no-confidence motion on 10 April. shahbaz sharifThe leader of the other major party replaced Khan as prime minister.

US-Pakistani relations deteriorated under Khan, who as prime minister harnessed the anti-American sentiment in Pakistan that has spread since the 9/11 terror attacks by al-Qaeda and the US War on Terror. The US raid that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in 2011 angered many hardliners in the country.

Khan accused the Biden administration of colluding with the opposition to oust him, a claim the administration denies.

Afghanistan also created mistrust between the two countries. Washington felt that Islamabad had done little to help ensure peace as the US and NATO carried out the withdrawal of their forces from Afghanistan; Pakistan insists that it has done everything possible to maintain peace and blames the sudden withdrawal of the US for this. Following the American withdrawal, the Taliban captured Kabul in August and seized power.

Bhutto Zardari said that Pakistan-US relations in the past were “very much colored by events in Afghanistan, geopolitical considerations, and the time has come for us to move beyond that and engage in a broader, deeper and more meaningful relationship.”

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Under Khan, Pakistan worked hard to get the world to engage with the Taliban after taking power in Afghanistan, and Bhutto Zardari said his country continued to do so.

“Whatever we feel about governance in Afghanistan, the world cannot spare the Afghan people and the country’s humanitarian crisis and crumbling economy must be addressed immediately,” he said. He said the complete collapse of the Afghan economy would be a disaster for Afghans, Pakistan and the international community, expressing concern that many Afghans would flee the country.

He said Pakistan is also urging the Taliban to live up to its international commitments not to use the country for terrorism, to enable girls and women to access education and to form an inclusive government. .

However, the Taliban has taken a more drastic turn. In recent weeks, new restrictions have been imposed on women. At the same time the tension has increased Terrorists based in Afghanistan carried out attacks in Pakistan between the Taliban and Pakistan.

Bhutto Zardari said that the more the humanitarian crisis is reduced and the economy is saved from collapse, the more likely we will be successful in our effort for women’s rights and the more likely we will be successful in our efforts against terrorism.

He said his talks with Blinken focused on increasing trade, especially in agriculture, information technology and energy. He said he looks forward to working with America on initiatives to empower women and women entrepreneurs.

On economic, defense and military coordination, Bhutto Zardari said, “if we continue to engage, we can move in a more positive direction.”

When asked about Khan’s anti-US rhetoric, Bhutto Zardari rubbished his allegation of US collusion behind his expulsion. He called it a “fictional conspiracy theory based on a big lie” to explain its removal.

“I am particularly opposed to the politics of hatred, division and polarization,” the foreign minister said. “If we continue to do politics of ‘you are with us or against us’, whether it is internationally or domestically, I don’t think it serves the interests of the people of Pakistan.”

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He said he believes that Pakistanis understand that their country needs to engage with the United States and all countries in order to become democratic and progress economically.

US President Joe Biden has strengthened ties with Pakistan’s arch-rival India, but Bhutto Zardari said Pakistan is not “jealous” of their ties. “We believe that the world is big enough for both Pakistan and India,” he said.

Biden will meet Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and leaders of Australia and Japan at a summit in Tokyo on May 24 to support the so-called Quad, an Indo-Pacific alliance that China sees as an attempt to control its economic growth and influence.

Pakistan has very close economic and military ties with neighboring China. Bhutto Zardari said he does not think growing ties with the US will harm its ties with Beijing.

Pakistan has avoided UN General Assembly resolutions condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the withdrawal of its troops. Bhutto Zardari said that Pakistan relied heavily on Ukraine’s wheat and fertilizers and has been affected by rising food prices and calls for diplomacy to end the war.

Bhutto Zardari remembered the legacy of his mother and grandfather Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who led Pakistan in the 1970s and was overthrown by the army. He called him a “great man on the world stage” and said he felt a “burden of history”.

“What inspires and motivates me is the pursuit of their unfinished mission,” he said. “I hope we will live up to the expectations of the people of Pakistan” who have longed for true democracy and fought for their economic, political and human rights.

Bhutto Zardari said, “These are the ideals we hold dear and we work for every day.”

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