- PPP chairman says democracy needed to counter extremism
- Proposes mechanism to resolve Pak-Afghan irritants
WASHINGTON: Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Wednesday commented on US President Donald Trump’s New Year’s tweet, terming it ‘deeply hurtful’ to the people of Pakistan, particularly to those people like himself ‘who have lost loved ones in the fight against extremism’.
He was speaking on an American news outlet Fox Business in the show ‘After the Bell’.
While speaking about the American president’s accusation that Washington had “foolishly given Pakistan more than $33 billion in aid over the last 15 years”, but Pakistan had in return given “safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan”, Bilawal stated that while he doesn’t think President Trump intended to be crude, “this tweet sent a wrong message”.
Agreeing that aid is “America’s right, America’s taxpayer money and absolutely your [the US government]’s right to [decide] how you want to spend it”, he made clear that the Coalition Support Fund (CSF) — under which a large chunk of the $33bn was transferred — “is actually reimbursement in exchange for services rendered by Pakistan in the fight against extremism.”
“The country [Pakistan] has seen a 75 per cent drop in terrorist activity, while in Afghanistan, terrorists are [still] active in 75pc of the country and 45pc of Afghanistan is not in the control of the government. If all the Nato forces — if all of America’s might and the Afghan government put together — can’t defeat terrorists in Afghanistan, how do we expect Pakistan to do it alone?” he asked.
“Afghanistan’s war can’t be won on Pakistan’s soil,” he added.
“Terrorists have killed Pakistanis; terrorists have killed more Pakistanis than Americans, and we want to end terrorism in Pakistan and in Afghanistan,” he reiterated.
He also pushed back on the criticism against Pakistan. “The US government has supported the Taliban and the mujahidin in the Afghan war,” he reminded his interviewers. “They forced the Pakistani state and government to support these forces [in the past].”
Bilawal recalled that his mother, Benazir Bhutto, had warned then US president, George H.W. Bush, against creating “a monster” in Afghanistan, but insisted that he does not want to dig into the past, but look towards the future.
“Pakistan, Afghanistan and the US will have to work together to defeat terrorism,” he concluded.
MECHANISM TO RESOLVE PAK-AFGHAN IRRITANTS:
Addressing scholars and researchers at the Woodrow Wilson think tank in Washington, Bilawal proposed a mutually acceptable verification mechanism, arrived at with international assistance, between Pakistan and Afghanistan to investigate allegations of cross-border intrusion of militants.
He said this was a ‘credible and doable way forward’ to address concerns about militants crossing over borders with impunity that has bedevilled peace in the region.
“Extremists and militants of any persuasion who seek to advance their security and foreign policy agendas are a threat to peace and security and must not be allowed a foothold anywhere,” he said.
The Haqqani network must be dismantled and disarmed but this can be done by concerted and coordinated action both by Pakistan and Afghanistan based on a credible and verifiable mechanism and not by resorting to blame-game, Bilawal said.
The interactive session at the Woodrow Wilson institute was participated by former ambassadors, Ex-state department officers and researchers and scholars of peace and security issues in the south Asian region. Spokesperson Senator Farhatullah Babar and former senator Akbar Khwaja were also present.