ISLAMABAD -  Senior Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Senator Sherry Rehman has said a flopped foreign policy of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N)-led government has put the country in a dangerous position. In an exclusive interview with The Nation at her residence here, the PPP vice president said the United States had shifted the blame on Pakistan regarding its own failures in Afghanistan.

“This is due to our foreign policy . We did not deal with the Afghanistan situation as we should have and in the end the US is shifting the responsibility to Pakistan,” she said.

The senator said Afghanistan was a weak state and the situation got out of control after the US-led invasion.

“It was easy to defeat the militants in a war but it is very challenging to stop them from terror activities. Pakistan should have told the US about the consequences to avoid the blame game later. Our foreign policy has put us in a dangerous position,” she added.

The PPP leader, who also served as Pakistan’s ambassador the US in the recent years, said the PML-N government did not take up Pakistan’s case on the Afghan issue bringing the US into an offensive position.

To a question, she said US President Donald Trump and his team were siding with Afghanistan and India on the Afghan crises and on the issue of tension along LoC. “We should have been on the top. Now we are on the defensive. We should have put the US on the defensive and told them we had warned of the consequences well in advance,” she asserted.

The senator said that the US should acknowledge Pakistan’s efforts in the war on terror instead of doubting its role.

She said ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif also failed in defusing the tension in the Middle East. “He has personal ties with the royal families of both Saudi Arabia and Qatar but he used them only for his own benefit. Pakistan could have emerged as a hero, if it had played a reconciliatory role instead of issuing mere statements,” the senator maintained.

She said if Pakistan had played a positive role, it would have benefitted the nation.

“You can compare the oil rates during our government and [now at the time of] the present rulers. Please also keep in mind Nawaz Sharif’s personal ties with the royals,” Rehman said. The PPP leader said that Pakistan could not afford to takes sides in the Arab conflict where Sunni and Shias were fighting each other.

“Pakistan has a huge Shia population itself. Our role should have been to help defuse the tension instead of becoming a party,” she was of the view.

The PPP vice-president said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s India was becoming increasingly dangerous for the minorities, especially the Muslims.

“Back in Pakistan, we also need to work for giving equal rights to the minorities but in India situation is worse. Extremism is rising and they are killing people for following a different faith,” she said.

The lawmaker said that India was also on the offensive along the borders and had resorted to bloodshed in Kashmir.

“These are not good signs. We need to take these issues powerfully at the international forums,” she remarked.

The senator said that the PPP always supported laws to ensure equal rights for minorities in Pakistan.  “We want them to contribute for the progress and prosperity of the nation. They have played their role in the past but we understand there are some hurdles in their way. The Sindh government [led by the PPP] has implemented registration of Hindus marriages, which will be helpful,” she added.

Rehman said that the country needed to defeat the terror mindset as killing the militants alone would not eliminate the menace of terrorism. “Our forces have cleared many areas. They have even cleared North Waziristan, which many thought was impossible. This is only one victory. We need to defeat the mindset to take Pakistan further. The same has happened in Afghanistan where the militants are resurfacing,” she said.

Rehman said that the PML-N and the PTI had disappointed the nation.

“They could bring no change in Pakistan or in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa [where the PTI leads the provincial government],” she claimed.

The legislator said that the PPP remained the only hope for the people.

“Our rallies have had great response from the public. We are set to return to power in the general elections,” she insisted.

Rehman said that Nawaz Sharif played a role to topple the PPP governments in the past, supported General Ziaul Haq and celebrated the sacking of Yousaf Raza Gilani as the prime minister in 2012 but was now trying to cash in on the same cases.

“Suddenly he has turned into a democrat and is crying over the past events. The people will now ignore these slogans and vote for the PPP,” she said.

Asked, if the PPP will support the removal of articles 62 and 63 from the constitution, if the PML-N moved for it, the senator said: “We will see when the time comes and how they go about it.”

Rehman said that the sun had set for the PTI and it was rising for the PPP.

“Now it is the PPP’s turn. We will win the next polls. The PML-N and the PTI have lost public support,” she remarked.

To a question, she said Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari would decide who would be the PPP’s prime minister if the party formed the next government.

“The future of course belongs to Bilawal but the decisions are taken by the party leadership,” she added.

 

 

Shafqat Ali