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Criticising Pak Army won’t serve purpose: Bilawal Bhutto

28 January, 2018

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LAHORE: Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari Saturday said even though the relations between Pakistan and India were not at their best at the moment, peace was the only chance for both the countries.

In an interview to Indian news organisation India Today on the sidelines of World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Davos, the PPP scion said, “Despite hostilities on both sides and genuine complaints, ultimately the youth of both countries understand that the only solution is peace. We just have to figure out a way to get there.”

‘Criticising Pak Army won’t serve purpose’: Maintaining that Pakistan needs a strong army since it is engaged in the fight against terrorism, Bilawal – when questioned about Pakistan Army’s “alleged links with extremist forces” – asserted that: “It does not serve my purpose or my country’s purpose to criticise my armed forces when they’re fighting terrorists.”

“Pakistan’s army does not have a relationship with India, the state does,” the PPP chairman made clear as he set the tone for what was his first interview to an Indian news outlet.

When the Indian anchor said the Pakistan army keeps “messing” with India, Bilawal was quick to interrupt him and said, “You mess with us as a state.”

The PPP chairman stated that India and the world needed to stop dictating to Pakistan because such hostility was unhelpful in improving relations.

‘Modi’s negative image in Pakistan’: While answering another question, the PPP leader said Indian PM Narendra Modi’s image in Pakistan after the incidents in Gujrat was not positive. “His image in Pakistan after the incidents in Gujrat is not positive,” he said, referring to Modi’s stint as the Indian state’s chief minister when deadly riots between Muslims and Hindus led to bloodshed in 2002.

Asked about the “rising popularity” of the Indian premier exemplified by his recent election victories, Bilawal shot back, asking: “Is winning what’s important or is doing the right thing what’s important?

Kashmir cause: He also did not shy from giving his views on Kashmir. “In the age of social media, you cannot hide what’s happening in Kashmir on either side. But for social media to see bullet-riddled bodies in [India-held] Kashmir makes things a little difficult.”

Responding to a question asking him why Pakistan had not “reciprocated” Modi’s efforts to improve relations by going out of the way to visit Sharif’s in Raiwind, Bilawal said: “Modi’s trip to Pakistan, while perhaps intended to send a positive sign … [was not followed] up with any sort of state cooperation [which] sends the image that they’re just showing that they want to have peace but are not actually taking the concrete steps necessary.”

‘Coalition Support Fund is not aid’: While commenting on US President Donald Trump’s statement about Pakistan giving the US “nothing but lies and deceit”, he said that Trump did not want to give the impression that America doesn’t pay its debts, adding “the Coalition Support Fund is not aid; it is the money Pakistan is due for the work we have done in fighting terrorism”.

Bilawal lamented that stakeholders across the world are not even having a conversation on how to counter violent extremism.

‘Extremism is not Islam-specific’: Referring to the global rise extremis, the PPP chairman said: “Extremism is not Islam-specific. You have it in Myanmar, India, America and in Pakistan. Not only do we have to eliminate terrorism, but also talk about defeating extremism.”

He added that Pakistan “needs a genuine progressive voice, a progressive alternative to the populist, hate-driven politics of the two other mainstream political parties in Pakistan.”

“We cannot tolerate prejudice, we cannot tolerate misogyny, we cannot tolerate discrimination, we cannot tolerate hate. And if we do not tolerate all these things, there won’t be any space for extremism,” he added.

“PPP has always been a progressive party in Pakistan. That’s the way forward. That’s the kind of politician I want to be. Shehbaz [Sharif] and Imran [Khan] have their own reasons for doing politics. I am doing it for the people,” said Bilawal.

Bilawal also reiterated that he did not choose the life of a politician. “It’s absolutely something that has been thrust [upon] me.”

Likens Imran’s remarks to ‘schoolyard insults’: Asked who he considers his principle adversary, Bilawal said he does not look at this (politics) in terms of adversaries.” I am doing this for the people of Pakistan.” While responding to a question about Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan referring to him as ‘Baby Bhutto’, he said, “When they can’t fault you on the issues and what you’ve done, they resort to schoolyard insults.”

In response to a question about comparisons being made between him and young Indian politician Rahul Gandhi, he said he could not take a partisan view with politicians in India but added that the trend of young politicians finding space in national politics was positive.

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