Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari defended former prime minister Imran Khan's Russia trip, reiterating that the visit was part of the country’s foreign policy.
The foreign minister was responding to a query pertaining to his take on the former premier’s Russia trip amid Europe and America’s concerns during a news briefing at the UN headquarters on Thursday.
Former PM Imran took a trip to Russia from February 23-24 at the invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin, amid concerns from US and European countries. During the time, a number of Western countries had imposed sanctions on Moscow for its military deployment into parts of eastern Ukraine.
“As far as the former prime minister [Imran Khan]’s trip to Russia is concerned, I would absolutely defend it. Pakistan's prime minister conducted the trip as part of his foreign policy and without knowing, no one is psychic, no one has a sixth sense, There was no way we could have possibly known that would have been the time that the current conflict will start,” he said.
Bilawal was accompanied by Pakistan Permanent Representative to the UN Munir Akram and envoy to US Masood Khan.
“And I believe it’s very unfair to punish Pakistan for such an innocent act,” Bilawal added.
Bilawal maintained that the country was clear on the principles of the United Nations and it was not part of any conflict. “We will continue to emphasise the importance of peace, we will continue to emphasise the importance of dialogue and diplomacy to resolve this [Russia-Ukraine] conflict as soon as possible."
Like his predecessor Qureshi, Bilawal also refrained from taking sides of any aggressor in the ongoing conflict, which has impacted oil and wheat prices as both the warring parties are the largest exporters of these items.
The then foreign minister in a press conference after Russia's visit said that it was pursuing an “independent foreign policy”. Ex-PM Imran had regretted the situation developing between Russia and Ukraine, saying Islamabad had hoped military conflict could be averted through a diplomatic solution.
Bilawal, who is the son of former premier Benazir Bhutto, further defended his statement by mentioning Pakistan's problems and its fight against terrorism. “We have been tired of seeing wars, our children, leaders, women, and men have been martyred. And, we think dialogue and diplomacy can resolve such issues,” he said while quoting his earlier speech.
He also answered a query pertaining to the no-confidence motion and compared Imran's actions with former US president Donald Trump. Bilawal also called for taking difficult decisions to steer the country out of the current "economic catastrophe".
However, the foreign minister refrained from defending the PTI chief's politics, manifesto, and government. "But, In his capacity as prime minister, the way he conducted himself in foreign policy, particularly in context of this Russian trip, I will go as far as to defend the fact that he did not know the Ukraine conflict will start on the very day that he was there."