Islamabad: 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.
In a wide-ranging interview with the top US newspaper, the premier said he wanted a ‘proper relationship’ with Washington. Trump, in a letter to PM Khan couple of days ago, had sought Islamabad’s help in ending Afghan conflict and bringing Taliban leadership to the negotiating table.
When asked about the ‘twitter war’ with the US president, PM Khan said ‘it was not really a Twitter war, it was just setting the record right. The exchange was about being blamed for deeply flawed U.S. policies — the military approach to Afghanistan.’
There are no sanctuaries in Pakistan, he added. Rejecting the US propaganda on sheltering Taliban leaders here, Khan said he was briefed about the situation and that he was told that Pakistan has asked the US several times to share where the sanctuaries are.
“We have 2.7 million Afghan refugees. Our border between Pakistan and Afghanistan has the greatest amount of surveillance. The US has satellites and drones. These people crossing would be seen,” he said when pressed upon the presence of militants here.
On Trump’s letter seeking support, the PM said: “Peace in Afghanistan is in Pakistan’s interest. We will do everything”.
“I talked for years about how there was no military solution in Afghanistan, and they called me “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.”
On question of future of Pak-US ties, the prime minister noted: “I 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.”
Defending ties with Beijing, the PM said our relationship with China is not one-dimensional. It’s a trade relationship between two countries and we wanted a similar relationship with US.
The US has basically pushed Pakistan away, he told the newspaper.
Khan also termed the US policy of declaring people criticising American policies as ‘imperialistic approach’.
On killing of Al-Qaeda Chief Osama bin Laden, he said ‘most Pakistanis felt deeply humiliated that we were not trusted, implying that we were complicit in it’.
“We got some relief from the UAE and China but they wanted to keep it confidential. We raised money, but we are talking to the IMF [International Monetary Fund]. We do not want to have conditions imposed on us which would cause more unemployment and inflation.”
“Exxon has come back to Pakistan after 27 years, and they’re doing a big exploration for us. PepsiCo has put extra investments because we are a clean government. We won’t be asking them for money.”
“India rebuffed all my overtures because they have elections and the ruling [BJP] party has an anti-Muslim, anti-Pakistan approach,” he added.
“I want to make Pakistan an equitable, just society. I believe 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.”
“I went as an 18-year-old to play cricket in England. It was the first time I saw a welfare state. It cared for the underprivileged, for the people who can’t compete in the race.”