Pakistan won’t be America’s hired gun ever again: Imran Khan

[dropcap]P[/dropcap]akistan Prime Minister Imran Khan in his first foreign interview to the Washington Post has told President Donald Trump that Pakistan is not US’ hired gun anymore. The premier said being given money to fight someone else’s war cost us “human lives, devastation of our tribal areas, but it also cost us our dignity”.

In a wide-ranging interview with the top US newspaper, the premier said he wanted a ‘proper relationship’ with Washington. This comes soon after the US asked Pakistan for help facilitating the Afghan peace process. He said peace in Afghanistan is in Pakistan’s interest, so his government will do “everything” to help.

Khan said the US has blamed Pakistan for its own deeply flawed policies, like the military approach to Afghanistan.

“I have never understood these accusations [that Pakistan is harbouring Taliban leaders]. 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 US war,” he said.

There were a lot of people in Pakistan who opposed it, including me. In the 1980s, we collaborated with the US in the Soviet jihad there. Then, in 1989, when the Soviets packed up and left, the US did too. Pakistan was left with militant groups and four 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,” he explained, adding that by becoming the “front-line state for the US in the war on terror, this country went through hell”.

Khan also denied that there were any sanctuaries for Taliban leaders in Pakistan. “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.

He said that when he spoke about the lack of a military solution in Afghanistan he was called Taliban Khan. If you did not agree with US policy, you were [thought to be] anti-American. Now I’m happy that everyone realizes there is only a political solution,” he said.

When asked whether he thinks Pakistan’s relationship with the US should warm up, he replied: “Who would not want to be friends with a superpower?”

Speaking about Khadim Rizvi’s arrest, Khan said, “It’s a straightforward thing. I 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.”

He also said his government did get some money from the UAE and China but the governments want to keep the amount confidential. “We raised money, but we are talking to the IMF. We do not want to have conditions imposed on us which would cause more unemployment and inflation,” he explained.

The prime minister reiterated his government’s earlier stance that this would be the last IMF programme Pakistan would take. For him, going to the IMF is still an ‘if’. “Pakistan has never made the structural changes that are needed. Now we have embarked on structural reforms. Already exports are picking up, remittances are going up. We need higher exports, and we are curbing our imports. Already, we have investors coming into Pakistan,” he said.

He also said that the government is working to reform the tax collection system, adding that they want to make Pakistan an easy place to invest in.

The premier also discussed the overtures he has made to India. He said he hopes that after the elections Pakistan can resume talks with India. Khan also said that Pakistan wants something done about the bombers of Mumbai. “I have asked our government to find out the status of the case. Resolving that case is in our interest because it was an act of terrorism,” he said.