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How did FM Bilawal defend Pakistan’s relations with Taliban regime?

In his first interview with CNN after becoming foreign minister, Bilawal Bhutto said that Pakistan is pinning hope on the Taliban regime in Afghanistan to discourage terror activities. 

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Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto has defended Pakistan’s relations with the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and urged diplomacy and dialogue for peace in the region. His statements come amid the recent uptick in terror activities from TTP against Pakistan.

In his first interview with CNN after becoming foreign minister, Bilawal Bhutto said that Pakistan is pinning hope on the Taliban regime in Afghanistan to discourage terror activities.

“We continue to not only monitor this situation, but work on our side to ensure that we can try to tackle the threat of terrorism and hope that the regime in Afghanistan lives up to their international commitment to not allow their soil for terrorism,” the foreign minister said.

Read more: Pakistan to release TTP & TLP prisoners

When asked what it will take for Pakistan to accept the current administration in Kabul, FM Bilawal said Pakistan will take any decision in this regard in line with the discussions with the international community. At the same time, he added, “we continue to advocate for engagement, particularly in light of the humanitarian crisis developing in Afghanistan”.

FM Bilawal defends Pakistan

Furthermore, the interviewer, Ms. Amanpour, commented on how Bilawal’s mother, the late Benazir Bhutto, during her tenure as Pakistan’s prime minister, supported the Taliban. Ms. Amanpour also said that the US believed Pakistan had played a “very dangerous role” in supporting the Afghan Taliban over the decades.

In response, Bilawal Bhutto said that it is indeed true his mother, in the 1990s, did not reverse the previous government’s decision of recognizing the Taliban regime.

“Pakistan has consistently engaged with Afghanistan no matter who was in power. And absolutely, we have had disagreements about the way this conflict has progressed,” Bilawal Bhutto said.

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“We have always been advocates of the fact that alongside action against terrorist activity, the resolution of the dispute was in dialogue and diplomacy and ultimately, despite Pakistan being at the receiving end of criticism for maintaining and sustaining this position, the international community went down that route while resolving the conflict and issues in Afghanistan,” the foreign minister further added.

Not holding back, Bilawal Bhutto said Pakistan is neighbors with Afghanistan and nothing can change that.

“Developments in Afghanistan have a direct impact on the lives of people in Pakistan,” Bilawal said. “There is a lot of blame to go around how this situation developed. If we focus on that, I think it hampers our ability to deal with the crisis at hand.”

The hard reality

Pakistan has often faced Western criticism for “backing” the Taliban. Currently, the Taliban is back in power in Afghanistan. However, it has once again imposed tough government measures, for instance barring women from gaining an education.

In rejection of the Taliban regime, the Western world is distancing itself from Afghanistan. This is resulting in a severe financial crisis for the country. With no financial help, Afghanistan is facing a humanitarian crisis. On the other hand, Pakistan has always urged peace and diplomacy with the Taliban.

Sharing a border with Afghanistan, whatever happens there directly impacts Pakistan. This is either a refugee crisis or any security unrest in Afghanistan. Recently, Pakistan once again agreed on a peace deal with the TTP and the Taliban government acted as a mediator.

Read more: Pakistan’s nuclear security amidst the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan