–PM Imran says only political settlement will resolve Afghanistan issue
–Tells FO to compose positive reply to US President Trump’s letter
–Says responded to Trump’s tweets ‘to set the record straight’
–IMF bailout, if availed, will be the last, vows PM
Though Pakistan has refused to be a “hired gun” of the United States, Prime Minister Imran Khan is willing to lend President Donald Trump a helping for reaching a negotiated settlement in Afghanistan.
After a year-long bumpy ride, relations between Pakistan and the US began to witness a thaw after President Trump wrote a letter to Prime Minister Imran, seeking Pakistan’s assistance in resolving the Afghan problem.
Days after Trump’s letter, Imran directed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) on Friday to prepare an affirmative reply to the letter conveying Islamabad’s resolve for bilateral economic cooperation with Washington.
Meanwhile, the PM ruled out to do the US bidding in the region in an interview with the Washington Post.
“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, the devastation of areas bordering Afghanistan, but it also cost us our dignity. We would like a proper relationship with the US.”
“Like the US, Pakistan too seeks peace in Afghanistan which is in its interest as well,” the PM said, as he assured his government “will do its best”.
He, however, added that putting “pressure on the Taliban is easier said than done as about 40 per cent of Afghanistan is now out of the government’s hands”.
“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 US policy, you were [thought to be] anti-American. Now I’m happy that everyone realises 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.”
“The last thing we want is to have chaos in Afghanistan. There should be a settlement this time. In 1989, what happened was the Taliban emerged out of the chaos.”
Speaking about Afghan refugees in Pakistan, he said, “we have 2.7 million Afghan refugees still living in Pakistan. They live in big refugee camps.”
“Our border between Pakistan and Afghanistan has the greatest amount of surveillance. The US has satellites and drones. These people crossing would be seen.”
As the US continue to ask Pakistan to do more regarding the reported terror sanctuaries in the country, the PM asserted that “there are no sanctuaries in Pakistan” as he ruled out the presence of Taliban in the country.
“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 said.
He further asserted that “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.”
Talking about the relations with the US, marred by distrust, he said “Who would not want to be friends with the US?”, while seeking improved relations with the world superpower.
On the US allegations that Pakistan harbours Taliban, the premier recalled that “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 US 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.”
By becoming the front-line state for the US in the war on terror, he regretted, Pakistan “went through hell.”
“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,” PM Imran Khan responded to the accusations.
‘TWITTER WAR WITH TRUMP’:
In response to a question regarding a recent exchange on Twitter with US President Donald Trump, PM Imran said that “It was not really a Twitter war, it was just setting the record right. The exchange was about being blamed for deeply flawed US policies — the military approach to Afghanistan”.
In response to a question about the premier’s recent efforts to acquire financial assistance from Saudi Arabia, UAE and China, he said that details of the agreements will be kept confidential.
“Those governments want 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.”
While speaking about his vision for the country, he said that “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”.
‘LAST IMF BAILOUT’:
The prime minister reiterated his plan to end poverty from the country, with or without the International Monetary Fund’s programme, vowing that an IMF bailout, if availed, will be the last.
“If we go with the IMF, we will make sure this is the last time,” he promised, suggesting that “Pakistan has never made the structural changes that are needed. Now we have embarked on structural reforms.”
He also said that the exports and remittances were going up, explaining that the investors were taking keen interest by coming to the country.
The premier said that the country had received monetary help from Saudi Arabia, China and the United Arab Emirates, but said the latter two countries wanted the figures to remain “confidential”.
Prime Minister Imran Khan also regretted that his government’s repeated overtures for peaceful negotiations with New Delhi had been turned down.
“The ruling party [in India] has an anti-Muslim, anti-Pakistan approach,” he pointed out. “Let’s hope that after the election is over, we can again resume talks with India.”
He maintained that he wanted the case of the Mumbai attacks to be resolved, adding that he has “asked our government to find out the status of the case”.
Meanwhile, when asked about the recent arrests of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan’s (TLP) workers and leaders, including its party chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi, Prime Minister Khan said that the matter was “straight forward”.
“I had gone on television and warned everyone that we will stand by the Supreme Court verdict,” he recalled. “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.”