Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that Pakistan is not “pursuing or receiving” any discounted energy from Russia, just a few days after his cabinet colleague had claimed that Pakistan is seeking oil at discounted rates from the energy-rich country.
On December 5, Minister of State (Petroleum Division) Musadik Malik, after visiting Moscow, claimed that Russia agreed to provide crude oil as well as petrol and diesel to Pakistan at discounted rates.
Speaking during an interview with PBS NewsHour on Wednesday, Bilawal said: “We are facing an extremely difficult economic situation, inflation, pump prices. We do have energy insecurity and we are exploring various avenues to expand the areas where we can get energy from. Any energy we receive from Russia will take a long time for us to develop.”
When asked if Pakistan can have a relationship with the United States as well as strengthen ties with China and do business deals with Russia, the foreign minister said that as far as Pakistan’s relationship with China is concerned, China is its neighbour with a long history between the two countries.
Pakistan has a lot of cooperation with China, particularly on the economic front, he said, adding that Pakistan has a historical relationship with the US that stretches back to the 1950s.
“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, we’ve faltered.”
“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.”
Bilawal said that Pakistan and the US are cooperating in a whole host of areas, calling it a healthy sign. He said that the cooperation between the two countries was narrow and specific within the context of the war on terror in the past, however, Pakistan and the US are now building a more broad-based partnership.
False perception of Khan’s popularity
When asked if former prime minister Imran Khan would win if the government decides to hold early elections, Bilawal said that he wouldn’t win.
The PPP chief said that removing Khan 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.”
He said as far as the by-elections are concerned, Khan resigned from seats that he held himself. He said he believes that there’s a false perception that’s been created about Khan’s popularity and falsely portraying winning by-elections in his own seats as some sort of testament to his popularity across Pakistan.
Bilawal said that the government will not call for snap polls, saying that it is not a justifiable reason for Pakistan to break the precedent of completing its five-year term just because Khan hasn’t been in power for the last six months.
Women’s rights in Afghanistan
Speaking about equal freedom for women and for girls to go back to school in Afghanistan, Bilawal said he has 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 have 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 that he agrees 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.”
He added that his party pursues democracy and has done in the past.