Islamabad - Pakistan's caretaker prime minister has said his country did not sell weapons for use by Ukraine in its war with Russia, calling reports of such sales a 'confusion.'
In an exclusive interview with VOA, Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar said Pakistan did not sell arms to the U.S. for Ukraine.
'We will investigate if it [Pakistan arms] has ended up somewhere else. But, as far as Pakistan is concerned our arms were not at all destined for either Ukraine or any other place for that matter,' Kakar said.
A recent investigative report by a Pakistani online news platform Soch established a link between sale of Pakistani small arms and ammunition to two U.S. companies and concluded, using publicly available procurement data, the items became part of Washington's Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative and ended up on the battlefield.
'We are just exploring that how this entire confusion has been created and what are the reasons behind those confusions,' Kakar said, claiming his government was already discussing this issue 'on different diplomatic channels with the concerned authorities' in Washington.
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Responding to an earlier VOA query on this matter, a spokesperson told VOA via email, 'we don't have anything for you on this.'
Pakistan has tried to maintain a neutral posture in Russia's war on Ukraine. A visit to Moscow by then-Prime Minister Imran Khan on the day Russia invaded Ukraine embarrassed Islamabad and irked Washington.
Pakistan is currently in the process of expelling nearly 1.7 million Afghans residing without documents. Islamabad alleges Afghans were involved in several recent terror attacks and accuses the Taliban government in Kabul of insufficient action against anti-Pakistan militants.
Asked if Pakistan would be safer after the mass expulsion, Kakar said it was not a counterterrorism tactic.
'We want to have a regulated movement interaction with the Afghanistan as a state. This is the prime target,' the Pakistani caretaker premier said.
FILE - Trucks transporting Afghan refugees with their belongings are seen along a road towards the Pakistan-Afghanistan Torkham border, following Pakistan's government decision to expel people illegally staying in the country, Nov. 3, 2023.
Kakar's recent comments referring to the Taliban government as illegitimate sparked a controversy. Calling his choice of words unfortunate, Kakar told VOA he meant the de facto government was unrecognized. He said deciding the legitimacy of their government was up to the Afghan people.
Kakar denied Pakistan had ever supported the Afghan Taliban and dismissed reports of sheltering then-insurgent leaders as exaggerated.
'Whenever next we have to choose and commit ourselves along with global powers in the regional wars we should mull over and deliberate more before making our choices,' Kakar said, complaining that Pakistan was incorrectly blamed for the outcome of the 20-year war while its human and economic sacrifices were not recognized.
Pakistan is home to the roughly $65 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, the flagship project in China's global Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
However, as Beijing aims to protect the BRI from risks, Kakar rejected the notion that Pakistan's political and economic instability and poor security environment was making the country less attractive for China.
'Pakistan is a midsize market in itself. So, they do see Pakistan in isolation and in connectivity with the whole region.'
During a recent trip to China to celebrate a decade of BRI with other partner countries, Kakar made a historic visit to Xinjiang, the northwestern Chinese province bordering Pakistan.
Imam of Yanghang Mosque Abdureqip Tumulniyaz, right, greets Pakistan's caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar at Yanghang mosque in Urumqi, in China's Xinjiang province, in this Oct. 20, 2023, photo released by Pakistan's Prime Minister Office.
He said he saw no 'so-called human rights abuses' during his time in Xinjiang, where he offered Friday prayers with local officials in a mosque.
International human rights watchdogs accuse China of rights abuses in the region through mass surveillance of Uyghur Muslims, suppression of their religious identity, and internment of around 1 million people in forced labor camps.
China dismisses this as Western propaganda. It calls the camps reeducation centers meant to curb militancy by helping Uyghurs assimilate with China's majority Han culture.
'My own observation and experience in that region has been that they are having a fantastic and fabulous life under Chinese leadership.'
Kakar said the U.S. and its allies had lost moral authority as Israeli strikes on alleged Hamas hideouts kill thousands of children in Gaza.
As the caretaker prime minister, Kakar's primary responsibility is to ensure Pakistan holds free and fair elections, slated for February 8 next year. That may be a challenge.
If the much-delayed polls happen at all, it is likely Pakistan's former Prime Minister Imran Khan will not be able to participate. The country's most popular leader, according to surveys, is in jail on corruption charges and faces a long list of cases, which he alleges are politically motivated.
Khan's party has seen mass defections as it faced a massive crackdown after supporters stormed government and military installations to protest the leader's arrest on May 9. Those that have stayed with the party and are not in jail say they are unable to run an election campaign.
'What I am trying to do over here is, we should commit ourselves to the utmost transparency, to the utmost fair play, to all the players and even then, after that, if we are criticized, we are OK with it,' Kakar said when asked how he can ensure credible elections.
More than 100 of Khan's supporters are in military custody for the May 9 violence. Kakar vehemently opposed the Pakistani Supreme Court's recent decision prohibiting their trials in military courts.
'Of course they should be tried in military courts. It has got nothing to do with, anything, the word of democracy,' Kakar asserted.
Since the top court's decision, the Pakistani Senate passed a controversial resolution demanding military trials of civilians. A group of citizens who lost loved ones to past terror attacks has also petitioned the Supreme Court to reverse its decision.
Kakar said it was fine if people protested outside political office, but those breaching military properties should face military courts.
'Why people go towards the military installation?' he asked. 'If they choose to do so, there are laws in every country and in this country, and they have to face the consequences of that.'