Pakistan not looking for discounted Russian oil: Bilawal

Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Thursday said Pakistan was not “pursuing or receiving” any discounted energy from Russia – a statement in complete contrast with an earlier assertion by his cabinet colleague Mussadik Malik.

“But we do have energy insecurity. And we are exploring various avenues to expand our areas where we can get our energy from. Any energy that we receive from Russia will take a long time for us to develop,” he told PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) in an interview.

He was replying to a question that how Pakistan can still be a US ally when it is having a closer of Washington’s geopolitical foes. The host was referring to the import discounted oil from Russia and strengthened ties with China.

“As far as Pakistan’s relationship with China is concerned, China is our neighbor. We have a long history with them. And we have a lot of cooperation, particularly on the economic front.”

Earlier, Minister of State Mussadik Malik, who after visiting Moscow earlier this month, claimed that Pakistan was seeking oil at discounted rates from the energy-rich country which had agreed to provide crude oil as well as petrol and diesel to reduced prices.

“We have partnered over the course of history and I believe whenever the United States and Pakistan have worked together, we have achieved great things. And whenever there’s been a distance developed between us then we’ve faltered,” Bilawal said about the future of Pak-US ties.

“I believe we are now heading in a positive direction with increased engagement on both sides. I think it’s more important, in a world that offers a multitude of challenges, for us to find areas in which we do on to work together. We are doing that on climate, health, we’re finding business and economic opportunities, particularly for women.”

Calling it a healthy sign, Bilawal said Pakistan and the US were cooperating in a whole host of areas, calling it a healthy sign.

However, he added that the cooperation between the two countries was narrow and specific within the context of the war on terror in the past. “Pakistan and the US are now building a more broad-based partnership.”

PTI’s popularity a false impression

When asked if PTI Chairman Imran Khan would win if the government decides to hold early elections, Bilawal said that he won’t.

He said he believed that there’s a false perception that’s been created about Imran’s popularity and falsely portraying winning by-elections in his own seats as some sort of testament to his popularity across Pakistan. Imran resigned from seats that he held himself, he added.

The foreign minister said removing Imran through a no-confidence motion was a cornerstone of democratic development. “Every other prime minister before Khan was either removed through a military coup or the orders of the Supreme Court. This is the first time through a democratic constitutional procedure a prime minister was removed from Parliament.”

Bilawal said the government would not call for snap polls, as it was not a justifiable reason for Pakistan to break the precedent of completing its five-year term just because Imran had not been in power for the last six months.

About Afghanistan, Bilawal talked about equal freedom for women and for girls to go back to school in Afghanistan, but added that he had been insisting the world to engage with the Taliban leadership. “We insist that not only Pakistan but the international community must engage with Afghanistan.”

“As far as women’s rights and women’s education is concerned, we believe that women have the right to education and a right to equal space in society at all levels.”

He added that the Taliban had been in power for over a year and one year is not a very long time for them to be able to deliver in Afghanistan. “It is a long time, however, for girls to go without an education. We continue to raise it with them. We encourage the fact that primary education for girls is allowed in Afghanistan, tertiary education for girls is allowed in Afghanistan and we look forward to the day when secondary education will also be allowed.”

When asked if politics should be a family affair, Bilawal said he agreed that it shouldn’t be a family affair. “In the last 55 years of my party’s existence, we have gone through three generations of leadership. It should still be the first generation of my family doing politics, let alone the second being lost and me having to step up and fill the role that I am fulfilling today.”

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