Bilawal Bhutto defends Imran Khan’s Russia visit

New York, May 20 (IANS) Pakistan Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto has defended former Pak Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Russia visit in February this year, saying it was “unfair to punish Pakistan for such an innocent action”, Samaa TV reported.

During a press conference in New York, the foreign minister was asked about the incumbent government’s policy on the “wave of disappointment in the US and Europe for not condemning Russian invasion in Ukraine”.

“I absolutely would defend the former prime minister of Pakistan,” he replied, adding that Pakistan’s Prime Minister had conducted the trip as part of his foreign policy “without knowing the conflict would start”.

The former prime minister, Imran Khan, had visited Moscow on February 3 as part of his two-day visit, which coincided with escalating tensions between Russia and neighbouring Ukraine.

He was the first prime minister to visit Russia on a bilateral trip since Nawaz Sharif visited the country in March 1999.

Since then, the trip became controversial as Khan during his anti-government rallies reiterated that “foreign conspiracy” was the reason behind his ouster through the no-confidence motion in early April. The former prime minister has been saying the “conspiracy” was made due to Pakistan’s free foreign policy, Samaa TV reported.

Talking about Pakistan’s stance on Russia and Ukraine conflict, the foreign minister pledged to emphasize the importance of peace to resolve this conflict as soon as possible.

“Pakistan is absolutely clear as far as it comes to the principles of non-use of force and all of the principles of the United Nations,” he said. “We stand by the principles.”

“We are not part of the conflict. We do not wish to be a part of the conflict,” FM Bilawal added.

The foreign minister maintained that Pakistan wants broad-based relations with the US. “Islamabad wants to enhance trade opportunities between Pakistan and the US, not the aid,” he said while highlighting the history of Pakistan-US ties, the report said.