BJP’s propaganda of Muslims being terrorists is negated, says Bilawal on return from India

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Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari hailed on Friday his trip to India as a “success”, saying that the “false propaganda” of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that every Muslim was a terrorist had been negated.

The foreign minister made these remarks upon his return to Pakistan from India, where he spoke at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation’s (SCO) Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) moot earlier today.

Addressing the media in Karachi, Bilawal said: “The BJP and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (a Hindu nationalist group in India) have been trying to create this myth — they declare Muslims across the world terrorists, they declare Pakistanis terrorists.

“We made an attempt at breaking this myth.”

He added, “I believe that when the son of Shaheed Mohatarma Benazir Bhutto’s son sits before them, no matter how much they try to level such allegations, this is a reply enough for them.”

Bilawal was also asked about Indian Minister of External Affairs S. Jaishankar’s comments about him, where the dignitary from New Delhi reacted to the PPP chairperson urging SCO members to refrain from “weaponising terrorism for diplomatic point scoring”.

Jaishankar said Bilawal’s address “reveals the mindset of that country. His position was found out and called out.”

To a question about Jaishankar’s remarks, the foreign minister said, “I understand there is an insecurity behind this insecurity.”

The reason for this insecurity, he continued, was that a “false narrative, propaganda and lie” being spread in India, particularly by the BJP.

“By going there and speaking and presenting our stance, we break that myth and propaganda.

“They try to give the impression that every Muslim is a terrorist so that hatred spreads there (India) and they could win elections. They try to prove that every Pakistani is a terrorist, but when Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari sits before them, their false narrative and propaganda are negated even if I say nothing,” he added.

He said the narrative that terrorism was linked to Muslims had become “stale” across the world and Pakistan’s sacrifices in the fight against terrorism were acknowledged by the world.

Bilawal went on to say that another “lie” that India was trying to spread was that the United Nations Security Council’s resolutions, international laws and bilateral agreements held no importance, adding that Pakistan’s representatives continued to counter India’s narrative on Kashmir.

ongoing tensions between the two countries in the realm of sports, particularly India’s refusal to visit Pakistan for Asia Cup 2023 and its demand for a neutral venue, Bilawal said: “I believe we shouldn’t hold sports hostage to politics or foreign policy and the purpose of sports is that you keep it away from such issues.”

He said it would be “very petty” of India if it kept sports hostage to politics. “The hope is that a petty action won’t be taken and we should keep our sportsmen and crickets separate from politics and foreign policy,” he added.

Responding to a question on the World Cup 2023 and if Pakistan would send its players for the tournament, the foreign minister said: “I hope that we’re in a position to not have sports suffer as a result [of our bilateral issues].”

quoted Bilawal as saying.

Bilawal’s address touched upon the issue of terrorism and Islamabad’s commitment to Afghanistan.

The FO, in a Twitter thread, quoted Bilawal as saying, “Unilateral and illegal measures by states in violation of international law and Security Council resolutions run counter to the SCO objectives”.

“When great powers play the role of peacemaker, we can unlock the potential of peace while paving the way for greater cooperation, regional integration and economic opportunities for our peoples,” he added.

Bilawal also stressed upon the SCO’s importance for Pakistan: “There couldn’t be a more powerful indication of the importance that Pakistan attaches to the SCO than my presence here in Goa for this CFM.”

The minister asserted the SCO could be a “key platform for taking the vision of Eurasian connectivity to the next level”, the FO said.

The FO further quoted him reiterating Pakistan’s belief and adherence to the “principles of mutual trust, equality, respect for cultural diversity, and the pursuit of shared development enshrined in the original ‘Shanghai Spirit’”.

The minister asserted Pakistan’s commitment to multilateralism and said it “continues to play a leading role at all international forums”.

Speaking on Afghanistan, Bilawal said, “A peaceful and stable Afghanistan is a key not only to regional integration and economic cooperation but also to global peace and stability.”

Citing Pakistan’s proposal to establish the Special Working Group on Poverty Alleviation, Bilawal advocated for closer cooperation for poverty alleviation under the SCO, the FO said.

The foreign minister once again highlighted Pakistan’s role in the global discourse on climate change. He further said, “The climate crisis poses an existential threat to humanity.”

He further highlighted the SCO’s role as an intergovernmental organisation and said the platform had promoted “mutual understanding, security and development through constructive and mutually beneficial cooperation”.

The FO also shared a photo of Jaishankar welcoming Bilawal to today’s CFM meeting. A video of the occasion shows the Indian minister welcoming Bilawal with a Namaste — a customary Indian gesture of respectfully greeting a person — and the latter reciprocating it.

Hindustan Times, Jaishankar said: “While the world was engaged in facing Covid and its consequences, the menace of terrorism continues unabated. Taking our eyes off this menace would be detrimental to our security interests.

“We firmly believe that there can be no justification for terrorism and it must be stopped in all its forms and manifestations, including cross-border terrorism,” Jaishankar said.

He further called for the “channel of activities for terrorist activities” to be “seized and blocked without distinction”.

The Indian news agency quoted the minister as saying, “Members need not be reminded that combating terrorism is one of the original mandates of the SCO.”

Jaishankar noted that the unfolding situation in Afghanistan following the Taliban’s return to power “remains at the centre of our attention”, adding that the efforts should be directed towards the welfare of the Afghan people, the Hindustan Times said.

CASA-1000, the FO said.

Bilawal also shared a video from the meeting, which showed the ministers participating in the meeting along with their delegations.

Along with the subject of economic cooperation, Bilawal said he also discussed the regional situation around Afghanistan.

The FO shared a group photo of the foreign ministers attending the SCO meeting today. The SCO comprises eight member states — Pakistan, India, China, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

Hina Rabbani Khar visited for peace talks.

The visit comes at a time when the relationship between the two nuclear-armed arch-rivals has nosedived over a combination of factors.

Pakistan has already made it clear that the foreign minister during his visit will not hold any bilateral meeting with his Indian counterpart.

Bilawal has also dismissed speculation surrounding his upcoming trip, saying it should not be interpreted as a sign of improved bilateral ties between the two neighbouring countries.

He clarified that he had not requested a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, emphasising that the visit should be seen in the context of the SCO meeting.

In addition to deliberating upon important regional and international issues and signing some of the institutional documents, the CFM will finalise the agenda and decisions to be adopted by the 17th SCO Council of Heads of State Meeting, scheduled to take place in New Delhi on July 3-4, 2023.