ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Thursday defended Imran Khan for visiting Moscow the day Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his forces to invade Ukraine, saying the former prime minister could not have foreseen that the war was going to begin during his visit.
The timing of Khan’s trip to Russia annoyed Western nations who were trying to internationally isolate Putin’s administration for launching the war in his neighborhood. The heads of various foreign missions in Pakistan also wrote a joint letter to the country’s previous administration, urging it to condemn the Russian aggression in Ukraine soon after the invasion.
Pakistan’s new foreign minister, who is currently in New York to attend a global food security conference at the United Nations headquarters, told a news conference he would “absolutely defend” the former prime minister.
“Pakistan’s [former] prime minister conducted that trip as part of Pakistan’s foreign policy and without knowing … at the time that the current conflict would start,” he said. “I believe it is very unfair to punish Pakistan [for that visit].”
Pakistan’s foreign office also maintained in the past that Khan’s Russia visit had been in the making for a long time, adding it was not possible to postpone it shortly before it was scheduled to start.
The former prime minister, who was ousted from power in a no-confidence vote last month, said he was trying to pursue an independent foreign policy by strengthening relations with Russia and China which led to the downfall of his administration under an international conspiracy hatched by the United States.
His assertion has been repeatedly denied by US officials.
“Pakistan is not part of any conflict,” Bhutto-Zardari said while reiterating his country’s position on the war in Ukraine. “Pakistan would not wish to be part of any conflict. We would like emphasize on the importance of peace and dialogue.”
Asked about India’s decision to revoke the semi-autonomous status of the disputed Kashmir region, he described it as an insult to the United Nations its Security Council resolutions.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government annulled Kashmir’s special constitutional status on August 5, 2019, to annex the Muslim-majority state with the rest of the Indian union.
The administration in New Delhi more recently published a list of redrawn political constituencies for the Himalayan territory under its control earlier this month, giving greater representation to the region’s Hindu areas while paving the way for fresh elections.
“The actions of August 5, 2019, and May 5, 2022, by India in illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir is not only an insult to the people of Kashmir but is an insult to the United Nations and to the Security Council’s resolutions,” he said.