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Prime Minister Imran Khan has categorically said that Pakistan could not recognise Israel as a state unless it gave freedom to Palestine.

In a two-hour and late-night interview with Dunya TV on Tuesday, he touched upon several issues, from the government’s strategy to deal with Covid-19, sugar and wheat crises, poor civic amenities in Karachi, government-opposition relations and FBR reforms to Pakistan’s foreign relations.

On foreign policy, the prime minister said: “The Quaid-i-Azam had said in 1948 that Pakistan could not recognise Israel unless it gave freedom to Palestinians.

“If we recognise Israel and ignore tyranny faced by the Palestinians, we will have to give up (the cause of) Kashmir as well, and this we cannot do.”

In the context of the UAE, which has recently established ties with Israel, the prime minister said every state had its own foreign policy.

He refuted an impression that Pakistan-Saudi Arabia relations had been shaken over Kashmir issue. “Saudi Arabia is one of our key friends and our relations are still fraternal and unchanged,” he said.

The PM said Pakistan’s future was linked to China as China defended Pakistan in all difficult times. He said Chinese President Xi Jinping would visit Pakistan in the winter.

Regarding Covid-19, the prime minister gave his government the credit for tackling the issue effectively and keeping a balance between precautionary measures and business activities. “Initially even my party leaders were against my strategy and were asking why strict lockdown was not being imposed in the country,” he said. “But our smart lockdown strategy worked and… the country managed to curb the spread of the deadly disease,” he said.

On the sugar scandal, he reiterated that he would not spare any “mafia” or anyone who was involved in creating shortage of sugar and hike in its price.

He, however, expressed sorrow over action taken against his close friend and PTI leader Jahangir Tareen, one of the sugar barons. “Jahangir Tareen is a better businessman. The departments concerned will decide his case,” he said.

Talking about pathetic civic amenities in Karachi, Mr Khan said the federal government was allocating funds for the city and special attention was being given to it to overcome its problems.

“We want Karachi to be a real metropolitan city as we are also trying to make Lahore and Peshawar metropolitan cities where they have their own elected members, own revenue generation system and independence to spend,” he added.

Speaking about Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar and the National Accountability Bureau’s cases against him, the PM expressed confidence in the CM and said: “I have checked the cases against Mr Buzdar relating to award of liquor licence and the ring road through Intelligence Bureau and found them baseless with no element of corruption,” he added.

The PM admitted the government had mishandled the issue of fake licences of commercial pilots and said: “The fallout of the issue could be minimised by properly handling the matter.”