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Why are Pakistanis unhappy with Bilawal Bhutto’s Davos visit?

Pakistan Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari (Image courtesy: Twitter/@PPP_Org)

Pakistan Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar along with other senior officials have arrived in Davos to attend the World Economic Forum (WEF) summit. While this may seem a routine affair, back home, the visit has created a stir especially with the rapidly deteriorating economic situation.

Amid dwindling foreign exchange reserves, this high profile visit of the ministers has come under the spotlight. Bhutto has often been attacked for his frequent foreign trips. Since he took charge of the office on April 27, he has already paid more than 20 visits to various countries.

“With so many trips abroad and very little result to show on the ground — the plight of the common citizens has only aggravated in the last few months—has led to more anger and anguish among the people.

While at Davos, the minister is slated to hold a series of meetings with other world leaders on various issues including climate change, there is little hope in Pakistan that there will be any outcome.

Frequent overseas travel by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his team has even been taken up at the Pakistan Senate, which is the country’s upper house.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf leader Faisal Javed, a member of Pakistan Senate has called for the placement of details of expenditures incurred on the visits abroad by the country’s Prime Minister Sharif, his ministers and other officials, local newspaper Dawn said.

Last month, Bhutto, also the chairman of Pakistan People’s Party, took to Twitter to clarify that he paid his own bills. However he also added that it was his “prerogative as the Foreign Minister” to use state funds to foot the bills.

“Don’t understand the logic of both FM and MoS Khar attending Davos Forum next week. PM shouldn’t have approved,” Pakistan’s Former High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit tweeted last week.

Bhutto’s tenure as foreign minister has been dotted with controversies, including a scathing attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the UN Security Council Open Debate, leading many to call him an “intern” in the job. He also called the 1971 East Pakistan debacle a “colossal military failure” in what was seen as a veiled attack against Pakistan’s former Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa who termed the episode as a “political failure”. Not just that. In October, he asked a group of protestors demanding the release of a legislator that they should instead seek help from those who have the power to release him—implying the Pakistan Army. Though he later regretted after strong condemnation from Sharif, the damage was done.

“Bilawal bhutto zardari has become the first person in the world who is doing paid internship as a foreign minister of Pakistan,” Saith Abdullah, a member of the PTI had tweeted after Bhutto was made the foreign minister.

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