Jaish chief Masood Azhar in Afghanistan, says Bilawal Bhutto

Jaish chief Masood Azhar in Afghanistan, says Bilawal Bhutto

Pakistan Foreign Minister says no Modi-Sharif meet took place in Samarkand

Denying any knowledge of Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar being in Pakistan, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto said he was “hopeful” that Pakistan would soon be let off the Financial Action Task Force List. Speaking to The Hindu and other journalists after the SCO summit in Samarkand, Mr. Bhutto said that as far as he knew, “the individual” [Masood Azhar], who is wanted in India for a series of attacks from the 1999 IC-814 hijacking to the Parliament attack and 2019 Pulwama bombings and is a UN designated terrorist, was “in Afghanistan”, a statement that directly contradicts a statement by the Taliban regime that placed Azhar in Pakistan. 

As The Hindu had reported in July, Pakistan’s submissions to the international body said it had made several efforts unsuccessfully to “trace” Masood Azhar, and that it was planning to declare him a “proclaimed offender” so as to proceed against him and convict him on various terror charges. Pakistan also claimed that intelligence reports placed him in Afghanistan, and this had been taken up at the ministerial level with the Taliban regime. India believes Azhar has been funded and protected by the Pakistani establishment, expressing its scepticism about Pakistan’s claims on several occasions. 

“We are hopeful that we would be out of the FATF. We want to fight terrorism, not because of the FATF, but as a commitment to the people of Pakistan to fight against the terrorists and extremists,” he said.

Floods in Pakistan

Blaming big powers for climate change that led to floods in Pakistan, Mr. Bhutto said south Asian countries that were the victims must find a way to jointly address the developed world on the issue “in the future”. 

However, Mr. Bhutto said Pakistan had not asked India for any assistance with the floods, and that Pakistan Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had not interacted while at the SCO summit in Samarkand.

“As far as weather changes and the floods in Pakistan, it is Pakistan today, it could be India or some other nation tomorrow. A single nation cannot deal with climate change alone. Neither Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, nor Sri Lanka is responsible for this. The big countries, that made themselves rich through industrialisation, have caused destruction to the climate,” Mr. Bhutto said. 

In what could pose a difficulty for India that has taken over as Chair of the SCO and will host the summit in 2023, Mr. Bhutto suggested that Pakistan had not yet decided on whether to attend next year’s summit in India. He also declined to comment on whether Pakistan would hope to host the long-delayed SAARC summit next year as a “quid pro quo” with India, which would entail leaders of both countries exchanging visits amid continuing tensions  and a breakdown of formal ties between them.

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