ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday said that the people of Afghanistan have made many sacrifices in the past 20 years and peace in the region is linked to the people of Afghanistan.
In an exclusive interview with American TV channel on Wednesday, he said that the situation in Afghanistan is worrying, adding that Pakistan wants peace in Afghanistan.
The prime minister said that the best way forward for peace and stability in Afghanistan is to engage with the Taliban and “incentivize” them on issues such as women s rights and inclusive government.
“The Taliban hold all of Afghanistan and if they can sort of now work towards an inclusive government, get all the factions together, Afghanistan could have peace after 40 years. But if it goes wrong and which is what we are really worried about, it could go to chaos. The biggest humanitarian crisis, a huge refugee problem,” Khan said.
He claimed that the Taliban are looking for international aid to avoid a crisis, which could be used to push the group in “the right direction towards legitimacy.” However he warned that Afghanistan could not be controlled by outside forces.
“No puppet government in Afghanistan is supported by the people,” he said. “So rather than sitting here and thinking that we can control them, we should incentivize them. Because Afghanistan, this current government, clearly feels that without international aid and help, they will not be able to stop this crisis. So we should push them in the right direction.”
To critics who say the Taliban will destabilize the country, Khan pointed to the withdrawal of the Soviets in 1989, which resulted in a “bloodbath.” Khan said he was fearing a similar bloodbath to happen after the US forces left.
“Our intelligence agencies told us that the Taliban would not be able to take over all of Afghanistan, and if they tried to take Afghanistan militarily, there would be a protracted civil war, which is what we were scared of because we are the ones who would suffer the most,” Khan said. Now, he said, the world should “give them time” to form a legitimate government and make good on their promises.
The prime minister said that it is a mistake to think that someone from outside can give Afghan women their rights, saying that the women in the neighbouring country are strong and the international community should give them time and they will get their rights themselves.
The premier said the Americans did not understand who the Haqqanis were, adding there was complete ignorance as Haqqani was a Pashtun tribe living in Afghanistan.
Forty years ago, when the Afghan Jihad took place there were five million refugees in Pakistan and amongst them were the Haqqanis who were fighting the Soviets, he observed.
The Haqqani leadership was born in the Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan, he recalled. “We were supposed to check which were of the people living in refugees camps were Taliban or not.”
To a question, he said the total budget of Pakistan was $ 50 billion for 220 million people while Americans were spending $ 300 million dollars a day and in total they spent $ two trillion on the Afghan war, PM said.
Responding to another question, Imran said it was a job of the intelligence agencies to meet everyone.
The United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) would be speaking to Taliban as it was their job, he remarked.
He said the question was whether in the past Pakistan was in a position to take military action against Taliban, adding Pakistani Taliban were attacking the state of Pakistan at one time.
There were two suicide attacks on General Pervez Musharraf as there were sympathies with the Taliban within Pakistan, he narrated.
He said Benazir Bhutto was assassinated by the Pakistani Taliban because she was considered a collaborator of the United States.
“Our heads of state in the past should have told the United States what they could do and what they could not do. We lost the argument when Pakistan had corrupt weak heads of state and they did not stand up to the United States.”
The Prime Minister said Pakistan’s relationship with the United States during the occupation of Afghanistan was terrible. “The US said we were paying Pakistan and they paid us $ nine billion for civilian aid and $ 11 billion as a military aid and we were like a hired gun.”
“In Pakistan the people felt that after joining the US we had bombs going everywhere. Benazir Bhutto was killed because of that and our economy tanked. Our economy lost $ 150 billion.”
“At present we want a relationship with the United States like the relationship it has with India. We do not want one dimensional relationship where they are paying us to fight. We want a normal relationship.”