'US really messed it up': PM Imran on Afghanistan situation

Published July 28, 2021
PM Imran Khan during his appearance on PBS NewsHour opposite Judy Woodruff. Photo: PBS NewsHour/YouTube
PM Imran Khan during his appearance on PBS NewsHour opposite Judy Woodruff. Photo: PBS NewsHour/YouTube

Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that the United States "really messed it up in Afghanistan" as he questioned the American motive of Afghan invasion in the first place and then their subsequent attempts of seeking a political solution with the Taliban from a position of weakness.

The prime minister's remarks come as the US military and Nato are in the final stages of winding up involvement in Afghanistan, which has seen a Taliban resurgence across Afghanistan.

"I think the US has really messed it up in Afghanistan," the premier said during an appearance on PBS NewsHour, an American news programme, aired on Tuesday night.

PM Khan criticised the US for trying to "look for a military solution in Afghanistan, when there never was one".

"And people like me who kept saying that there's no military solution, who know the history of Afghanistan, we were called — people like me were called anti-American. I was called Taliban Khan."

He lamented that by the time the US realised that there was no military solution in Afghanistan, "unfortunately, the bargaining power of the Americans or the Nato (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces) had gone".

The prime minister said the US should have opted for a political settlement much earlier, when there were as many as 150,000 Nato troops in Afghanistan.

"But once they had reduced the troops to barely 10,000, and then, when they gave an exit date, the Taliban thought they had won. And so, therefore, it was very difficult for now to get them to compromise," he told programme host Judy Woodruff .

When the interviewer asked whether he thought the Taliban resurgence was a positive development for Afghanistan, the prime minister reiterated that the only good outcome would be a political settlement, “which is inclusive”.

“Obviously, Taliban [will be] part of that government,” he added.

'Last thing we want is a civil war in Afghanistan'

The premier described the “worst-case scenario” as being one where Afghanistan descends into a civil war. “From Pakistan's point of view, that is the worst-case scenario, because we then … we face two scenarios, one [of them being] a refugee problem,” he said.

“Already, Pakistan is hosting over three million Afghan refugees. And what we fear is that a protracted civil war would [bring] more refugees. And our economic situation is not such that we can have another influx.”

Elaborating on the second problem, he expressed concerns that the fallout of a potential civil war across the border could "flow into Pakistan”.

The prime minister explained that the Taliban were ethnic Pashtuns and “if this [civil war and violence in Afghanistan] goes on, the Pashtuns on our side will be drawn into it.”

“That … is the last thing we want,” he said.

'Extremely unfair' to allege Pakistan supported Taliban

When asked about Pakistan's alleged military, intelligence and financial support to Afghanistan, he replied: “I find this extremely unfair”.

The premier reminded Woodruff that 70,000 Pakistanis had died in the aftermath of the US war in Afghanistan, even when “Pakistan had nothing to do with what happened [in New York on September 11, 2001].”

At the time, Al Qaeda was based in Afghanistan and “there were no militant Taliban in Pakistan,” he said, maintaining that no Pakistan was involved in the attack on World Trade Centre.

“We had nothing to do with,” he repeated, regretting that the war in Afghanistan had resulted in a loss of $150 billion to Pakistan’s economy.

‘Comments on rape taken out of context deliberately’

Woodruff questioned the premier about his controversial remarks on rape, which had drawn widespread criticism and earned him rebuke from civil society, political circles and on social media.

In a June 19 interview with HBO, he had said: “"If a woman is wearing very few clothes, it will have an impact on men unless they are robots. I mean it's common sense. If you have a society where people haven't seen that sort of thing it will have an impact on them.”

As Woodruff revisited those remarks, PM Imran clarified his stance, saying that “anyone who commits rape, solely and solely, that person is responsible.”

“No matter whatever, how much ever a woman is provocative or whatever she wears, the person who commits rape, he is fully responsible. Never is the victim responsible,” he added.

The premier maintained that his comments in the HBO interview in June were taken out of context, saying that he was “simply talking about Pakistani society, where we are having a rise, a sharp rise in sex crimes.”

“So my comments were in that context,” he said.

The prime minister further said that he had specifically used the word “purdah”, referring to his earlier remarks on rape during a telethon in April.

““We have to promote a culture of veil (purdah) to avoid temptation. Delhi is called a rape capital; similarly, obscenity in Europe has shattered their family system. Therefore, the people in Pakistan should help government overcome obscenity,” he had said on the occasion.

Clarifying his position on the matter, he told Woodruff, “I used the word purdah. In Islam, purdah does not mean just clothes. And purdah is not restricted to women only, but that is for men as well. It means bringing the temptation down in a society.”

He said that he would never say “such a stupid thing" that "a person who's raped is responsible … It's always the rapist that is responsible.”

Woodruff then asked him whether he believed that importance given to religion, particularly Islam, “complicates” his ability to take a stronger stand against violence against women.

“Absolutely not,” the prime minister replied.

He said that on the contrary, Islam gave dignity and respect to women, adding that having travelled all over the world, he found that women were treated with more dignity and respect in Muslim countries.

“Look at the situation in Pakistan even now. I mean, look at the rape cases here. Compare it to Western countries. They are minuscule compared to them,” he remarked. “Yes, we have our issues … But, as far as a woman's dignity goes, … I can say, after going all over the world, this society gives more respect and dignity to women."

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