Pakistan will no longer act as a hired gun in someone else’s war, Prime Minister Imran Khan said yesterday, striking a note of defiance against US demands for Islamabad to do more in the battle against militancy.
Khan – who also reiterated his backing for a recent push by the US for talks with the Taliban in Afghanistan – said in a televised address that he wants Pakistan to move forward with “honour”.
“We will no longer fight someone else’s war, nor will we bow down in front of anyone,” the former cricketer said.
“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,” he said. “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 US.”
Khan elaborated: “For instance, our relationship with China is not one-dimensional. It’s a trade relationship between two countries. We want a similar relationship with the US.”
When asked that some people think he’s trying to hedge his bets using China, the prime minister said: “The US has basically pushed Pakistan away.”
On whether he thinks “Pakistan’s relationship with the US should warm up”, the premier responded: “Who would not want to be friends with a superpower?”
Islamabad joined Washington’s “war on terror” in 2001, and says it has paid a heavy price for the alliance, which sparked an Islamist backlash and homegrown militant groups who turned their guns on the Pakistani state, costing thousands of lives.
Security has dramatically improved in recent years after a military crackdown.
However, the US continues to accuse Islamabad of ignoring or even collaborating with groups such as the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network, which allegedly attack Afghanistan from safe havens along the border between the two countries.
The White House believes that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency and other military bodies have long helped fund and arm the Taliban both for ideological reasons and to counter rising Indian influence in Afghanistan.
It believes that a Pakistani crackdown on the militants could be pivotal in deciding the outcome of the war.
Khan, who has long been vocal about Pakistan’s role in the war on terror, said his country wants “peace with all”.
“Thank (God) that today, the same people who were asking to do more are now asking us to help them in Afghanistan, to establish peace and to negotiate,” he said.
More than 17 years after the US invasion, Washington has stepped up its bid for talks with the resurgent Taliban with a flurry of recent diplomatic efforts.
This week the Pakistani foreign ministry said Khan had been sent a letter by US President Donald Trump seeking Islamabad’s support in securing a peace deal.
In the letter, Trump said that a settlement is “his most important regional priority”, the Pakistani foreign ministry stated.
“In this regard, he has sought Pakistan’s support and facilitation,” it continued.
Regarding Trump’s letter, Khan said: “Peace in Afghanistan is in Pakistan’s interest. We will do everything.”
On whether he will put pressure on the Taliban to come to the negotiating table, the premier said: “We will try our best. Putting pressure on the Taliban is easier said than done.
“Bear in mind that about 40% of Afghanistan is now out of the government’s hands.”
Trump’s letter was followed by a visit from US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who has said he hopes a deal can be in place before the Afghan presidential elections, set for April next year.
Prime Minister Khan has also dismissed the notion that he was involved in a Twitter war with Trump.
In an interview to the Washington Post, PM Imran commented on the Twitter exchange between him and the US president and said: “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.”
When pointed out by the interviewer, Lally Weymouth, that Trump wasn’t blaming the prime minister but his predecessors, Khan said: “No, he was saying Pakistan was the reason for these sanctuaries [for Taliban leaders]. There are no sanctuaries in Pakistan.”
The prime minister continued: “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.”
“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 added.
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