Ahsan Iqbal slams smear drive aimed at denting Pak-China ties

Planning minster says any attempt to sabotage China ties to be dealt with iron hand | Critics being harassed to change narrative by online trolls

LAHORE   -  Federal Minister for Planning Ahsan Iqbal on Wednesday accused “a political party” of spreading misinformation about Pakistan-China relations over the past few days, claiming that a smear campaign was underway to sabotage the strong ties between two time-tested friends.

“Trolling is being used to put pressure on critics, subjecting them to harassment,” Iqbal said addressing a press conference in Lahore. Iqbal categorically stated that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) or any other political party would not be allowed to spread misinformation against the state’s diplomatic relations and policies. “While differences exist between the government and opposition, state institutions should not be targeted. Weakening these institutions jeopardises the stability of the state.” The minister pointed out that for the first time, Pakistan and China were advancing their relations in the space sector. “China’s participation will elevate the space programme to new heights. China has expressed readiness to enhance CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) at an upgraded level,” he reiterated.

He said that a state’s policy was not determined by random articles. “Articles are written and published worldwide, but no country or state formulates policy based on them. Policy decisions are made through negotiations between governments.” The federal minister further added that “cooperation with China have also expanded into the space sector”. “After hearing joint statements, only a fool would claim that relations are deteriorating. Relations with China have improved after recent engagements.”

Iqbal quoted the Chinese President as saying that “they (China) want to deepen strategic relations”. The planning minister remarked that Pakistan-China relations would further strengthen, dismissing claims that Beijing had downgraded its relations with Islamabad as enemy propaganda. The minister emphasised that any attempt to toy with the interests of the state would be dealt with iron hands, and “we may have disagreements, but that doesn’t mean we are playing for the state’s interests”.

Earlier on Sunday, in an apparent reference to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Barrister Aqeel Malik, the federal government’s spokesperson on legal affairs warned that the state would clamp on those involved in running anti-state campaign on social media in a bid to damage Pakistan’s ties with friendly countries. He urged the PTI to quit its “anti-state activities and propaganda,” and hold dialogue with the government on political issues to mull over solutions instead of damaging the nation’s interest at global forums. The spokesperson stated this while addressing a press conference to brief the media on the political party’s anti-state activities abroad.

Barrister Malik said that there was no precedent to PTI’s “enmity as it was perpetrating anti-Pakistan legislation in foreign countries”. “Pakistan is an independent country and does not take dictation from any nation. We want friendly relations with all nations. “However, a concentrated smear campaign against Pakistan in foreign countries that started after the 2022 vote of no confidence which mounted the anti-Pakistan propaganda,” he said, adding that the PTI had hired lobbyists and PR firms to promote anti-Pakistan campaign abroad.