Pakistani foreign minister wants the world to deal with the Taliban and warns of dangerous consequences if Afghanistan’s rulers are isolated again.
In an interview with AFP news agency on Tuesday during a visit to Washington, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari warned against creating “parallel governance” after the United States, which was suspicious of the Taliban, put Afghanistan’s frozen assets into a professional fund had laid in Switzerland.
“We’ve learned from the past that when we wash our hands and turn our backs, we have unintended consequences and more problems for ourselves,” said Bhutto Zardari.
“I believe that our concerns about an economic collapse, an exodus of refugees, the threat of new recruits to (armed) organizations… outweigh the concerns that there may be about their financial institutions.”
Afghanistan is affected by a humanitarian crisis in which more than half of the population is suffering from hunger, amid sanctions imposed by the West, as well as the freezing of humanitarian aid and almost $10 billion in assets held by the Afghan central bank.
The UN has said it is increasingly concerned that restrictions on girls’ education and other measures aimed at restricting fundamental freedoms would exacerbate Afghanistan’s economic crisis and lead to greater insecurity, poverty and isolation.
Bhutto Zardari said that Afghan rulers needed “political space” with regard to issues such as women’s rights, which were severely curtailed.
“Throughout history, theocratic, autocratic regimes have not exactly tended to extend rights in times of economic conflict,” he added. “In fact, they tend to stick to cultural issues and other issues to get their people involved.”
Bhutto Zardari took office five months ago amid political turmoil in Pakistan following a vote of no confidence in former Prime Minister Imran Khan.
He also spoke with the Associated Press news agency in the last few days of a trip to the UN General Assembly in New York, where Islamabad has tried to draw more world attention to the unprecedented floods that have submerged a third of the country and displaced millions of people.
Relentless monsoon rains, which scientists say are being exacerbated by climate change, have killed more than 1,600 people in Pakistan, caused tens of billions of dollars in damage and destroyed much of the country’s staple foods and crops.
The approximately 30 million people in Pakistan who were reportedly displaced by the floods “are really paying in terms of their lives and livelihoods to industrialize other countries,” said Bhutto Zardari.
“And justice would be for us to work together “globally,” that we would not be left alone to deal with the consequences of this tragedy,” he said.
The Biden government announced $10 million in food aid for Pakistan on Monday, in addition to more than 56 million US dollars in flood relief and humanitarian aid this year.
Also on Monday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on Islamabad to ask his close ally China to restructure the accumulated debt as Beijing builds billions of dollars worth of infrastructure to reach port access in the Indian Ocean.
Asked about Blinken’s statements, Bhutto Zardari said he had “very productive talks” with China and hoped that the aid “would not fall victim to great power rivalries and geostrategic problems” following the historic floods.
“I’m sure the United States would like us to comment more on China’s internal affairs,” said Bhutto Zardari.
“But if we start to address disputes that are recognized as international disputes by bodies like the UN, it might be more productive.”
He was referring to Kashmir administered by India, the Himalayan territory divided between India and Pakistan, and the trigger for two of their three full-fledged wars.
2019, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi withdrew partial autonomy from the region and paved the way for other Indian citizens to live there.
Bhutto Zardari said that when his Pakistani People’s Party was in power in 2010, it moved on to opening trade with India, which was then led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
“We were prepared to take the political risk, put our necks on the line and touch the third track of Pakistani politics, but because we knew that there was a rational, reasonable player at the other end who might be willing to retaliate,” said Bhutto Zardari.
“Unfortunately, this room doesn’t exist today. It is a completely different India.”