Trump’s tweet was deeply hurtful to Pakistani people: Bilawal in US

* PPP chief notes if allied forces of Afghanistan and US have not been able to ensure peace so far, blaming Pakistan alone is unrealistic

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan People’s Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has lambasted US President Trump for a tweet he sent out in January, in which he had criticised his own country for providing $33 billion in aid to Pakistan over the course of the past 15 years.

“President Trump’s tweet, while I understand it reflects some of the emotions of the American people, it was deeply hurtful to the people of Pakistan, particularly those like myself who have lost loved ones in this fight against extremism,” Bilawal told FOX Business’ David Asman. “I feel, unfortunately, I don’t think the president intended to do so, but this tweet sends the wrong message.”

“They have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools,” Trump had written in the tweet. “They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!”

The PPP leader said that the US had spent billions of dollars in aid for Pakistan but pointed out that “it was a reimbursement for services rendered by Pakistan in fight against extremism”.

The young politician noted if the allied forces of Afghanistan and US were not able to ensure peace so far, blaming Pakistan alone was unrealistic. He went on to say that more Pakistanis had been killed in the fight against extremism than Americans. “We want to stop terrorism in Pakistan and Afghanistan.”

On a query that what practical actions the ruling government had taken to battle terrorism, the PPP leader said his party is in opposition, therefore the best he could do is push the PML-N government to adapt better polices.

While focusing on the extremism and militancy in Afghanistan, Bilawal said it was US who initiated militarisation of the Taliban and Mujahideen during the Afghan war. The US had forced Pakistan to support Taliban forces even though former prime minister Benazir Bhutto had warned against it, he added.

“I would hope that the US, Pakistan and Afghanistan will work together to bring peace to the region” the PPP chairman said.

In his address as a special guest of honour invited to speak to a galaxy of international guests including US Congressmen, government officials, decision makers, corporate CEOs, ambassadors, faith leaders, media, academia and civil society organisations in Washington, Bilawal Bhutto said that at a time when violent extremism had become the single largest challenge to the world, genuine democracy alone offered the hope to fight the menace. Moderation vs extremism has become a major fault line in the battle of ideas and Pakistan was in the trenches in this battle of ideas, he said.

“Today, terrorism, inequality and climate change have disoriented the world. The borderless nature of the challenges we face today will force us to unite. Let’s not unite only when the crisis has caused incalculable loss. Let’s use these trying times as a chance to reflect and re-evaluate our values. There is no other way out,” he said.

“We must recognise that terrorism and extremism is not confined to the Muslim world. School shooters in America, cow vigilantism in India and genocidal monks in Myanmar prove that extremism is not confined to one religion,” Bilawal reminded the audience.

“In Pakistan, there is growing public recoil from extremism. But for a transformative shift, we need commitment and momentum in the battle of mindsets that we fight,” the PPP chairman said, adding that violent extremism has severally imperiled the social and political equation of the region.

“Pakistan and America can do much good in bringing peace and stability to South and Central Asia. In order to achieve it we must invest in trust and building confidence,” Bilawal said, and urged the world not to return to the cold-war era of zero-sum binaries. “We have fought one of the longest wars in the region together on the borders of Afghanistan. It is now high time to look towards winning the peace together, not against each other,” he added.

Published in Daily Times, February 9th 2018.