Bilawal cautions against creating ‘parallel governance’ in Afghanistan

Holds meetings with US lawmakers in Washington: Says PM Shehbaz to appoint new army chief as per constitution, law: Democracy in any form is better than military dictatorship: Rich states should provide $100b to poor nations as climate compensation: US envoy says 'not if but when' Afghan war reignites

By: News Desk
Published: 09:13 AM, 29 Sep, 2022
Bilawal cautions against creating ‘parallel governance’ in Afghanistan
Caption: Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari in a meeting with US Senator Jeanne Shaheen and other US Congress members.
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Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has cautioned against creating a “parallel governance” in Afghanistan, saying such a move would result in unintended consequences and more problems for others.

Bilawal said this during his meetings with the US lawmakers in Washington and in interview with news agencies.  

In an interview, Bilawal cautioned against creating "parallel governance" after the United States, distrustful of the Taliban, put Afghanistan's frozen assets in a professional fund in Switzerland.

Meeting US lawmakers

Bilawal also held meetings with US Senator Van Hollen,Senator Jeanne Shaheen and other US Congress members separately during his visit to Washington DC.

According to Foreign Office (FO) spokesperson, matters of mutual interest and bilateral relations between Pakistan and the United States were discussed during the meeting with Senator Hollen.

The two leaders also discussed about how Pakistan and United States can work together to address pressing regional challenges & how the US can continue to assist efforts to help those devastated by recent severe floods in Pakistan.

Army Chief appointment

While speaking to Foreign Policy, Bilawal said Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif will appoint the new army chief as per the constitution and law.

Responding to a question about the appointment of the next army chief, the foreign minister said the prime minister of Pakistan has the authority to appoint an army chief and he will decide as per the constitution and law. All institutions in Pakistan are independent, he added.

$100 billion climate compensation

Talking about the flood catastrophe in Pakistan, he said that 33 million people have been affected while standing crops on 400,000 acres are under water. He urged the United Nations and international financial institutions to come forward for the rehabilitation of the flood-affected people of Pakistan.

He said that the wealthy countries should provide $100 billion a year to less wealthy nations, to help them adapt to climate change and mitigate the further rise in temperature. He stressed that world countries provide more medicines, tents, mosquito nets and food items for flood-hit areas as diseases have been spreading in flood-affected areas of Pakistan.

Democracy is better than dictatorship

Replying to a query, Bilawal said democracy is better than military dictatorship in any form. “We believe in democratic traditions. And, we will not support undemocratic measures,” he said. A democratically-elected government believes in the freedom of the media, he noted.

Consequences to Taliban isolation

Talking to AFP, Bilawal said he wanted the world to engage the Taliban, warning of dangerous consequences if Afghanistan's rulers are again isolated. He cautioned against creating "parallel governance" after the United States, distrustful of the Taliban, put Afghanistan's frozen assets in a professional fund in Switzerland.

"We've learned from the past that when we wash our hands and turn our backs, we end up creating unintended consequences and more problems for ourselves," Bilawal said.

"I believe that our concerns of an economic collapse, of an exodus of refugees, of a threat of new recruits for organizations such as ISIS-K and others, outweigh concerns that there may be about their financial institutions."

Militants need political space

In contrast to some previous Pakistani officials, Bilawal -- whose mother, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, was assassinated in 2007 -- offered no warm words for the Taliban.

But he said the militants needed "political space" on concerns such as women's rights, which have been sharply curtailed. "Throughout history, theocratic, autocratic regimes haven't exactly tended to expand rights at times of economic strife," he said.

"In fact, they tend to hold on to cultural issues and other issues to engage their population."

The United States came away unpersuaded from a series of talks with the Taliban and in August said the militants had violated promises by welcoming Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, who was found at a house in Kabul and killed in a US strike.

- 'Great power rivalries' -

Commenting on US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s remarks regarding seeking debt relief from China, Bilawal said its all-weather-friendly country, China, has always helped Pakistan in difficult times. Pakistan’s relations with China are multi-faceted, he said.

Islamabad has played the role of a bridge to bring China and the US closer. Unless the two countries work together, it will be difficult to cope with the ravages of climate change, he pointed out.

Asked about Blinken's remarks, Bhutto Zardari said he has had "very productive conversations" with China and said he hoped that assistance after the historic floods "does not fall prey to great power rivalries and geostrategic issues."

"I'm sure that the United States would like for us to comment more on China's internal affairs," Bilawal said and added "But maybe if we start by addressing disputes that are recognized by bodies such as the United Nations as disputes of an international nature, that would be more productive."

He was referring to Kashmir, the Himalayan territory divided between India and Pakistan and the trigger for two of their three full-fledged wars.

Bilawal recalled that when his Pakistan People's Party was in power in 2010, it moved to open trade with India, then India was led by prime minister Manmohan Singh. "We were willing to take the political risk, stick our necks on the line, and touch the third rail of Pakistani politics -- but because we knew that there was a rational, reasonable player on the other end who would perhaps be willing to reciprocate," Bilawal said.

"Unfortunately, that space does not exist today. It's a very different India."

'Not if but when' Afghan war reignites: US envoy

The US pointman on Afghanistan on Wednesday predicted that conflict would reignite in the war-battered nation, saying the Taliban have failed to build bridges since returning to power last year.

"I really do fear -- and I think this is a consensus -- that what we see now is a pause in 44 years of conflict and that we could see a return to civil war in time," said Thomas West, the US special representative on Afghanistan.

"Within our analyst community, the question is not if but when we will see the re-emergence of conflict," he said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

A Taliban-led meeting of thousands of "ulema," or religious scholars, in June and July showed that the Taliban were not serious about representing the "richness or diversity" of Afghanistan, he said.

"There still is an imperative to see a political process unfold," he said.

West has met with the Taliban since the takeover but has come out pessimistic on key concerns, with the United States earlier this month deciding to put frozen Afghan reserves in an outside fund, arguing it could not trust the central bank.

The United States also accused the Taliban of violating commitments by sheltering Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, who was found at a house in Kabul and killed by a US drone in August.

But West said the Taliban were also largely abiding by agreements to let Afghans leave the country and have not launched a "systematic, nationwide" campaign against Afghans who worked with US forces or the fallen Western-backed government.

"I think that the Taliban are sincere in wanting to see a policy of no reprisals," West said.

The Taliban, while negotiating a withdrawal by the United States, engaged in talks with the former government of Ashraf Ghani that considered future power-sharing.

The process collapsed and the Taliban swiftly seized control of the country as President Joe Biden last year withdrew the final US troops, saying America's longest war was no longer worth it.

West cast blame on the former administration of Donald Trump, saying its decision to start withdrawing troops was "untethered from the negotiation," reducing the Taliban's incentive to compromise.

With inputs from Agencies.