–Premier says he will try to convince President Trump to resume talks with Afghan Taliban
–Urges int’l community to push India into ending Kashmir lockdown
–Says govt inherited huge deficits but policies have brought economy back on track
NEW YORK: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday said that Pakistan should not have joined the US-led war on terror, adding that 70,000 Pakistanis have died so far in the war on terror and the country has lost hundreds of billions in economy.
The premier said this in conversation with Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) President Richard N Haass. He discussed the current state of US-Pakistan relations, recent developments in occupied Kashmir, and Pakistan’s relationship with India, Afghanistan, and other neighbouring countries.
Answering a question regarding former US defence secretary James Mattis’ remark that he considered Pakistan to be “the most dangerous” among all countries he had dealt with, PM Imran said, “I do not think James Mattis fully understands why Pakistan became radicalised”.
“In the 1980s, when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, Pakistan, helped by the United States, organised the resistance to the Soviets. And the resistance was organised by the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) training these militants who were invited from all over the Muslim world to do jihad against the Soviet Union,” he added.
“And so we created these militant groups to fight the Soviets. […] Jihadis were heroes then. Come 1989, Soviets leave Afghanistan, the US packs up and leaves Afghanistan […] and we were left with these groups.
“Then comes 9/11, and Pakistan again joins the US in the war on terror and now we are required to go after these groups as terrorists. They were indoctrinated that fighting foreign occupation in jihad but now when the US arrived in Afghanistan, it was supposed to be terrorism,” he said.
“So Pakistan took a real battering in this,” he said, adding that Pakistan should have stayed neutral in the conflict.
“Pakistan by joining the US after 9/11 committed one of the biggest blunders,” he said, noting that 70,000 Pakistanis had died in the ensuing violence and the country lost hundreds of billions in economy. “I think the Pakistani government should not have pledged what they could not deliver.”
To a question regarding insurgents allegedly going from Pakistan to carry out attacks in Afghanistan, PM Imran said that there are some 2.7 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan and there is no actual border in the tribal region. “How do we know who is coming in and going out?” he questioned, saying Pakistan could not be expected to completely shut the border when refugees in such large numbers live there.
“I do not think it’s because of Pakistan that the US has not able to succeed in Afghanistan, simply because there is a history behind it; it was never going to happen,” he said.
To a question about restoring peace in Afghanistan, Imran Khan reiterated that there is no military solution to the situation in Afghanistan.
He said that talks are the only solution to restore peace in the war-torn country. He added that it is unfortunate that peace process was halted when a peace deal between the United States and the Taliban was about to sign.
He further said that Pakistan has always supported peace endeavors in Afghanistan and he will try to convince US President Donald Trump to resume talks with Taliban.
Answering a question, Imran said that every peace effort and policy of his government has complete backing of the armed forces of the country as both the civilian and the military leaderships are on the same page in taking the country forward.
The premier urged the international community to ask India to lift curfew in occupied Kashmir as the people of the area have been facing a lockdown for last fifty days.
Regarding the illegal Indian act of annexing occupied Kashmir, Imran said that Kashmir is a disputed territory between Pakistan and India as recognised by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions.
He said that the international community should play a due role in resolution of the longstanding issue of Jammu and Kashmir.
The prime minister said that Pakistan and India are two nuclear armed states and any conflict between them can have negative impacts beyond South Asia. He added that the world should intervene to resolve the situation.
Imran said that the ruling party in India is pursuing an agenda of racist Hindu supremacy of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
The premier said that just after coming to power, he extended a hand of cooperation and resolving all issues with India on the dialogue table, but his offer was not well responded by the rulers of New Delhi.
He also said that Pakistan and India have common issues like poverty and climate change, which need to be addressed together. He added that Pakistan had urged India to reset their relations based on mutual interest.
He also made it clear that Pakistan will allow no terrorist group on its soil.
Regarding a question about going to International Monetary Fund (IMF), Imran said that wrong economic policies of the previous governments caused huge current account deficit due to which his government was compelled to go for an IMF programme.
“The moment you have a deficit, whether it is current account or fiscal deficit, means you are not managing your economy properly […] This inability of successive governments to manage our economy is why we keep lining up with the IMF,” he added.
He said his government had inherited “the biggest current account deficit” in Pakistan’s history and “so the first year has been a real struggle.” However, he added, the current account deficit has decreased and efforts are being made to put the economy on right track.
“I am really proud to say that we have cut down this deficit almost by 70 per cent. We now have an economy which is heading in the right direction,” he further said.
Responding to a question, the prime minister said that China provided foreign exchange reserve and saved Pakistan from defaulting.
“We were staring at a default,” the prime minister said, adding that China along with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) had provided funds to beef up Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves.
He said that Pakistan signed a Preferential Trade Agreement with China to enhance its exports, while Beijing is also helping it by relocating industry to the country.
‘INDIAN BRUTALITIES IN IOK THREAT TO REGIONAL PEACE’:
Earlier, in a meeting with US Senator Lindsey Graham, the prime minister shed light on the deteriorating humanitarian conditions in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) and issued yet another warning on the negative effects of India’s oppressive actions in occupied Kashmir, saying they pose “a clear threat to regional peace and stability”.
He termed the situation a “human tragedy” and said the US can play a positive role in resolving the lingering Kashmir dispute.
The two also held discussions on the Afghan peace process and the premier reiterated Pakistan’s continued support to any initiative for sustainable peace in Afghanistan.
He said Pakistan was hopeful that the recently abandoned talks would restart soon.
Graham acknowledged Pakistan’s significance in the Afghan peace and reconciliation effort, saying that a strong Pak-US partnership was in favour of both countries.
Later, PM Imran met a delegation of Kashmiri leaders from both sides of the Line of Control (LoC) led by Dr Ghulam Nabi Fai.
The premier said the international community must pressure India to immediately lift the draconian curfew in IOK.
He said it was essential to ensure that the Kashmir dispute is resolved according to the wishes of Kashmiris and in line with the UNSC resolutions.
The delegation members informed the prime minister that Indian forces are picking up young Kashmiri men from their homes in late-night raids, and the whereabouts of the victims remain unknown.
They said the situation in IOK was deteriorating by the minute and called for immediate intervention by world powers.
PM Imran assured the Kashmiri leaders that he would continue to highlight the issue at every forum and would fulfill his promise of being an ambassador of the Kashmiri people.