ISLAMABAD – Prime Minister Imran Khan has expressed that by becoming the front-line state for the U.S. in the war on terror, Pakistan went through hell as it suffered a devastating loss in terms of casualties and monetary disadvantages.
In an interview to Washington Post, the premier highlighted that over 80,000 people died in the war, and over $150 billion was lost in the war on terror with investors and sports teams avoiding to visit the country as it was known as the most dangerous place in the world.
To a question whether Pakistan was harbouring leaders of Taliban, the premier said he never understood these accusations as Pakistan had nothing to do with 9/11.
“Al-Qaeda was in Afghanistan. No Pakistani was involved. And yet Pakistan was asked to participate in the U.S. war. There were a lot of people in Pakistan who opposed it, including me. In the 1980s, we collaborated with the U.S. in the Soviet jihad there. Then, in 1989, when the Soviets packed up and left, the U.S. did too. Pakistan was left with militant groups and 4 million Afghan refugees. If we had stayed neutral after 9/11, I reckon we would have saved ourselves from the devastation that took place afterward,” Khan elaborated.
The premier affirmed that Pakistan will try its best to put pressure on the Taliban to get them to table but hastened to add that it was easier said than done citing that about 40 percent of Afghanistan was now out of the government’s hands.
“Peace in Afghanistan is in Pakistan’s interest. We will do everything,” he asserted.
When asked whether there were any terror sanctuaries in the country, Khan replied in the negative.
“When I came into power, I got a complete briefing from the security forces. They said that we have time and time again asked the Americans, “Can you tell us where the sanctuaries are, and we will go after them?” There are no sanctuaries in Pakistan,” he clarified.
To a query about stopping Taliban leaders, Khan said if there are a few hundred, maybe 2,000 to 3,000 Taliban who move into Pakistan, they could easily move into these Afghan refugee camps.
The premier also negated the perception that a Twitter war was going on between Trump and him, adding that the historical facts needed to be told to POTUS.
Imran Khan said he talked for years about how there was no military solution in Afghanistan, for which he was branded as Taliban Khan.
“If you did not agree with the U.S. policy, you were [thought to be] anti-American. Now I’m happy that everyone realizes there is only a political solution . . . From Pakistan’s point of view, we do not want the Americans to leave Afghanistan in a hurry like they did in 1989,” he said.
Admitting that there were less US troops in Afghanistan, Khan said the Afghan army is being supported by U.S. dollars adding that the Taliban clearly realize that for the reconstruction of Afghanistan, they will need American help.
Pak-China or Pak-US
When asked about the relationship of Islamabad with Beijing and Washington, Khan said he would never want to have a relationship where Pakistan is treated like a hired gun — given money to fight someone else’s war.
“We should never put ourselves in this position again. It not only cost us human lives, devastation of our tribal areas, but it also cost us our dignity. We would like a proper relationship with the U.S,” he asserted.
The lawmaker said the relationship with China is not one-dimensional as it’s a trade relationship between two countries and Islamabad wants a similar relationship with the U.S.
The U.S. has basically pushed Pakistan away, Imran Khan mentioned but said there should be close ties between the two countries.
Who would not want to be friends with a superpower, Khan said.
When asked about the anti-American approach of the cricketer-turned-politician, Khan replied that if you do not agree with U.S. policies, it does not mean you’re anti-American as this was a very imperialistic approach. “You’re either with me or against me.”
More with Bernie Sanders Than with Trump
To a query about eliminating poverty in the country, Khan replied that he wanted to make Pakistan an equitable, just society as he believed in a welfare state.
“I would be on the opposite side of President Donald Trump in terms of economic policy, probably closer to Senator Bernie Sanders,” Khan said.
Over much-debated drone strikes, Khan asked who would not be against drone attacks?
“Who would allow a drone attack in their country when, with one attack, you kill one terrorist and 10 friends and neighbors? Has there ever been a case of a country being bombed by its own ally? Of course I objected to it. All it did was create more anti-Americanism,” he explained.
To a question about killing Osama bin Laden and PTI leader terming it cold-blooded murder, Khan said it wasn’t killing Osama bin Laden — it was not trusting Pakistan.
“It was humiliating that we were losing our soldiers and civilians and [suffering terrorist] bomb attacks because we were participating in the U.S. war, and then our ally did not trust us to kill bin Laden. They should have tipped off Pakistan. We did not know whether we were a friend or a foe,” he added.
When asked should the U.S. had tipped off Pakistan? Khan said ‘Of course’.
I don’t know where this came from, “coldblooded murder.”
Deceit and Lies
When asked whether Pakistan had lied to Republicans and Democrats alike, Khan replied in the negative and said they have been misinformed.
“Is it possible that the greatest military machine in the history of mankind — 150,000 NATO troops with the best equipment and over $1 trillion — are they saying that just a few thousand Pakistani insurgents are the reason they didn’t win in Afghanistan? The United States expected Pakistan to take on the Afghan Taliban. But the Afghan Taliban were not hitting Pakistan. Tehrik-e-Taliban [a Pakistani branch of the Taliban] and al-Qaeda were hitting us,” he said.
Khadim Rizvi’s Arrest
Imran Khan also dished in on the arrest of Tehreek-e-Labbaik leader, Khadim Hussain Rizvi and said he had gone on television and warned everyone that we will stand by the Supreme Court verdict.
“If you don’t stand by what the Supreme Court says, then there’s no state left. The head of the TLP then passed a death sentence on the Supreme Court judges and kept saying that they should be killed,” Khan observed.
Imran Khan also spoke on the issue of economic crisis and highlighted that in 2013, when the previous government came to power, the current account deficit was $2.5 billion but when PTI came to power in 2018, it was $19 billion — a huge deficit, especially in a country with falling exports.
Imran Khan said he had got some money from his visits to Saudi Arabia, UAE and China and added that some of the IMF conditions are likely to harm the common man which was worrying him.
When asked whether it would be unrealistic to continue without any IMF program, Khan said in the last 30 years, 16 IMF programs were availed and for this time it will be made sure that this is the last time.
Calling for structural reforms, he said now we have embarked on structural reforms claiming that exports are picking up, remittances are going up and investors are coming.
He also stressed increasing tax collection saying major reforms in tax collection were in the offing.
“We want people to be able to make money here. In the 1960s, we were growing fast, and then in the 1970s, [former prime minister Zulfiqar Ali] Bhutto came in with a socialist program. Somehow the mind-set became anti-wealth-creation. This has persisted, sadly, in our bureaucracy and in our political class. We want to make Pakistan an easy place to invest in so that people can utilize our young population,” he said.
The premier mentioned that the Foreign Direct Investment was coming as a clean government was in place.
Imran Khan cited the upcoming elections as a reason behind New Delhi’s dismissal of the offer for peace talks.
“The ruling party has an anti-Muslim, anti-Pakistan approach. They rebuffed all my overtures,” Khan said.
Imran Khan said resolving the Mumbai attacks case was in interest of Pakistan as well as it was a case of terrorism.
“We also want something done about the bombers of Mumbai. I have asked our government to find out the status of the case,” he said.
The legislator said he had opened a visa-free peace corridor with India so that Indian Sikhs can visit a holy shrine in Pakistan.