ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has said that PTI Chairman Imran Khan believes that no law of the land applies to him and he has repeatedly broken the law for which he will have to answer
Speaking in The Daily Show during his US visit, Bilawal Bhutto on Wednesday said Imran Khan has been summoned to court many a time but he was not appearing. Now, Imran Khan has pitched his workers against the police to save himself, he added.
Bilawal said that Pakistan is facing a “perfect storm” of crises as the country battles with worsening political, economic and security issues. “Unfortunately, Pakistan is facing a perfect storm. Not only do we have heightened partisanship and political polarisation, to the extent that political parties or political stakeholders aren’t even in a position to sit in a room and discuss issues amongst themselves, we’re also facing an economic crisis,” he added.
As the country faces a security threat and crisis following the Afghan government’s fall, the foreign minister said, it is also suffering from the increasing frequency of terrorist attacks and reeling from the aftermath of the biggest climate catastrophe in history.
When responding to a question about the ongoing unrest in Pakistan — owing to the imminent arrest of Imran Khan, the PPP Chairman that while the country deals with the chaos and simultaneous crises, the PTI chief believes the country’s law doesn’t apply to him. “He’s resigned from parliament and run away from the system. In this particular instance, it’s not a question of me wanting to arrest Mr Khan […] I would never want any politician in my country or any country to go to jail for political reasons. In Mr Khan’s case, he’s under the threat of arrest because of his ego,” the minister said, adding that the former prime minister thinks he’s “too important” and won’t turn up to the court”.
Bilawal deemed Imran Khan’s decisions a “complete mockery of the judicial system in Pakistan, of rule of law, of the Constitution in Pakistan”. “We’re caught in a situation where there’s this political chaos playing out on the streets and distracting from the real issues that are affecting everyday Pakistanis,” he added.
When asked if the state of democracy in Pakistan is fragile, Bilawal said “Absolutely. Pakistan has been, for most of our history, under direct military dictatorship. Forces that benefit from “undemocratic rule in Pakistan” didn’t like when political parties came together after the death of his mother Benazir Bhutto. “So they supported Imran Khan and brought him into power. And that’s now blown up not only in those individuals’ faces, but has had severe consequences for our country,” he maintained.
Responding to a query on how the political instability affects Pakistan’s economy, he said: “The deal with the International Monetary Fund is made by the previous government, which violated that deal with the IMF. They put Pakistan in an extremely precarious economic situation. Our negotiations are still ongoing and have not been concluded with the IMF. I think that when Pakistan is facing such a perfect storm, some problems of our own creation, but some, like the flood and others, that are of our own, the conversation with the IMF really should take that into account, and I don’t think it is at the moment.”
Bilawal said whether it is Pakistan’s deals with the IMF or the country’s own internal economic policy, there’s an outsized burden on the poorest of the poor. “There’s an outsized burden on the bottom of the pyramid, but we do need a fundamental reform about how we talk about our economy and what decisions we take domestically in order to achieve that,” he added.
When the host questioned the minister regarding the relations between Pakistan and the United States, particularly in the context of terrorism, Bilawal said whatever happened during the war on terror and the entire period that followed, there’s a “fog of war that colours everyone’s decision-making, everyone’s perception”.
He insisted Afghanistan is a reality and that the world must get serious about engaging on the topic. “I believe that based on the facts on the ground, the position and perspective of Pakistan and the United States, we meet eye to eye. […] And whatever has happened in the past, we should be able to have honest conversations about that,” he said, adding it is crucial for the two countries to be working together and strategise the future. “That’s what I’ve been working on with my counterpart, Secretary Blinken,” he said.
Bilawal said even though Pakistan being Afghanistan’s neighbour hasn’t recognised them diplomatically, but still it is forced to engage with the reality on its border. “We are advocating, not only for ourselves, but for the international community, to also engage with them,” he said.
Talking about the Taliban’s ban on women’s education, Bilawal said: “I believe that we were off to a positive start, initially, but given what’s happened with women’s education and their right to access education, it’s becoming incredibly difficult for me or others like me who do want to engage with them, who do want to find solutions to the problems the people of Afghanistan are facing.”
He said the decisions being taken by the Afghanistan’s interim government is “not helping us help them”, adding that the government’s major concern is that whatever happens in Afghanistan, Pakistan is going to be the first people to feel the consequences.
Talking about the security situation, Bilawal said the more the economic situation deteriorates in Afghanistan, the more cannon fodder the terrorist groups over there are going to have, and the more people they’re going to be able to recruit to their cause. Reiterating to engage with the Taliban, he requested the Taliban to “let girls learn”.
Speaking about the climate issue being faced by Pakistan, Bilawal said the country is still battling with the consequences, however, the domestic attention and political conversation have moved on from this issue.
Referring to the current political situation in the country, the PPP Chairman said Pakistan is being distracted from the climate issue that affected over 33 million lives, displaced over eight million people and dented the economy.
Bilawal called for the international community to come together to resolve the issue as it is not the problem of only one country. He said the world needs to work together to come up with the money to address loss and damage as a result of climate change.