Bilawal says no talks with TTP, Imran sympathetic to them

Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari ruled out talks with the outlawed TTP, saying the new leadership — both political and military — had ruled out talks with terrorist organisations that don’t respect the country’s laws and constitution.

Accusing former government led by Imran Khan of following a policy of appeasement towards the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), he said “I am confident that if we can work with the Afghan interim government, which has influence over these groups, we will be successful in maintaining our security.

He was speaking on a wide-ranging of issues in an interview with The Washington Post in Davos, Switzerland, where he is attending the World Economic Forum.

The foreign minister accused Imran of giving the Taliban a place to hide and said the former prime minister not only released the TTP prisoners from Pakistan’s custody but also engaged in dialogue with them.

“He [Imran] has always been ideologically sympathetic to their point of view,” the foreign minister said, adding that the PTI chairman conducted himself in a manner that undermined democracy and constitution.

The latest interview comes as Bilawal had told Al Jazeera earlier this week that the PTI government had created problems for Pakistan through its policy of “appeasement” the TTP.

He termed Imran’s approach “wrong” and assured that the incumbent government had put an end to that line of action.

In latest interview with the Washington Post, Bilawal, in response to a question about whether Pakistan had hoped that the new Afghan government would act against the TTP, said: “Our hope — and in fact, their agreement — was that their soil would not be used for terrorism. We do hope to cooperate with them to deal with terrorists that are a concern to us.”

Bilawal also touched upon the topic of his mother’s assassination and said that if former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in 2007, had lived, both Pakistan and the entire region would have been a completely different place.

He told the publication that the PPP had always aimed for Pakistan to be a democratic country, which he termed as the “only way” to deal with extremism and terrorism rampant in the country.

Also asked whether he could become prime minister this year, Bilawal said that he would have to win an election first. “Obviously,” he added, “my party will be hoping that we win. The PPP has its own manifesto, and given the challenges that Pakistan faces, I believe that our manifesto speaks best to the country’s key problems, such as inflation and unemployment.”

“However, I don’t believe that any one party will be able to solve all of Pakistan’s problems. If [our party wins the most votes], I will seek to form a government as prime minister and be willing to work in tandem with the other parties.”

About the possible disengagement by Washington from the region, he said, “It is true that President (Joe) Biden never spoke with the previous prime minister Imran Khan. We are hoping to go forward with more US engagement with our Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.”

About different terror groups, he said, “There is a whole alphabet soup of terrorist groups. Pakistan and America’s interests vis-à-vis such terrorist groups are aligned. America has withdrawn from Afghanistan. Now we have to focus on the reality, which is that everyone in the region and around the world is concerned about the potential use of Afghan soil for terrorist activities.”

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