Bilawal Bhutto defends ex-PM Imran Khan’s Russia visit

Says it was 'unfair to punish Pakistan'

Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto on Thursday defended former prime minister Imran Khan’s Russia visit in February this year, saying it was “unfair to punish Pakistan for such an innocent action”.

During a press conference in New York, the foreign minister was asked about the incumbent government’s policy on the “wave of disappointment in US and Europe for not condemning Russian invasion in Ukraine.

“I absolutely would defend the former prime minister of Pakistan,” he replied, adding that Pakistan’s PM had conducted the trip as part of his foreign policy “without knowing the conflict would start”.

The former prime minister, Imran Khan, had visited Moscow on February 3 as part of his two-day visit, which coincided with escalating tensions between Russia and neighboring Ukraine.

He was the first prime minister to visit Russia on a bilateral trip since Nawaz Sharif visited the country in March 1999.

Since then, the trip became controversial as Khan during his anti-government rallies reiterated that “foreign conspiracy” was the reason behind his ouster through the no-confidence motion in early April. The former prime minister has been saying the “conspiracy” was made due to Pakistan’s free foreign policy.

Talking about Pakistan’s stance on Russia and Ukraine conflict, the foreign minister pledged to emphasize the importance of peace to resolve this conflict as soon as possible.

“Pakistan is absolutely clear as far as it comes to the principles of non-use of force and all of the principles of the United Nations,” he said. “We stand by the principles.”

“We are not part of the conflict. We do not wish to be a part of the conflict,” FM Bilawal added.

The foreign minister maintained that Pakistan wants broad-based relations with the United States. “Islamabad wants to enhance trade opportunities between Pakistan and US, not the aid,” he said while highlighting the history of Pakistan-US ties.

While talking about Kashmir and Palestine, he said depite all the differences among the political parties the nation is united for the resolution of longstanding disputes.

“Pakistan will raise its voice on all global platforms for the resolution of Kashmir and Palestine where people are facing atrocities for many decades,” he said.

“In India, minorities are being mistreated and inhumane tactics are being used in the Indian Occupied Kashmir,” he maintained.

Bilawal slammed India for conspiring to convert the Muslim majority into the minority in Kashmir which led to tensions between the neighboring countries, urging the resort to the Kashmir dispute for bringing peace and stability to the region.

He also urged the international community to pay attention to the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan and called for joint efforts to assist the Afghan people.

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