WASHINGTON: Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that the only good outcome in Afghanistan would be a political settlement, not a takeover as any forcibly imposed solution would lead to a civil war.

In an interview to Judy Woodruff of PBS News Hour, the prime minister also said that a rape victim could never be blamed for the rape.

“Anyone who commits rape, solely and solely, that person is responsible,” he said.

“We do not have the capacity to have any more fighting within our borders, any terrorism within our country,” said Mr Khan when asked if he would allow the CIA to setup counter-insurgency bases in Pakistan.

In the interview, broadcast in one of America’s most popular talk-shows, on Wednesday night, Mr Khan also said that the US had really messed up Afghanistan, first by seeking a military victory where there’s none and then by setting a timeline for withdrawing its troops from the country.

“The only good outcome for Afghanistan is a political settlement which is inclusive, so they form a government that includes all sorts of different factions,” said the prime minister when asked to define a good outcome in Afghanistan. “Obviously Taliban are part of that government.”

Says US messed up the issue; clarifies that a rape victim can never be blamed for the assault

The interview was shown the same evening when two key Pakistani officials — National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf and Director General of Inter-Services Intelligence Faiz Hameed — arrived in Washington for talks with their American counterparts.

The talks are focused on Afghanistan.

Urging Washington not to blame Islamabad for its failures, Mr Khan said that any development in Afghanistan has a direct impact on Pakistan.

“The worst situation in Afghanistan would be if there’s a civil war and a protracted civil war … because then we have to face two scenarios: an influx of Afghanistan refugees and the fighting in that country spilling over into Pakistan.

“Our economic situation is not such that we can have another influx,” he said. “And the worry is that if this (civil war) goes on, the Pashtuns on our side will be drawn into it. So that’s the last thing we want.”

Asked to share his assessment of the situation in Afghanistan, the prime minister said: “Well, Judy, I think the US has really messed it up in Afghanistan.” First of all, “they try to look for a military solution in Afghanistan when there never was one” and then they announced the Sept 15 deadline for withdrawing troops from Afghanistan.

“People like me kept saying that there’s no military solution, (but such people were) called anti-American. I was called Taliban Khan,” he added.

The prime minister’s criticism of the US strategy in Afghanistan was apparently the harshest ever by a Pakistani leader, which would be seen in Washington as signaling Islamabad’s desire to move closer to Beijing, even at the risk of annoying its American allies.

“I don’t know what the objective was in Afghanistan, whether it was to have some nation building or democracy or liberate the women, whatever the cause was, the way they went about it was never going to be the solution,” Mr Khan said.

“When they finally decided that there’s no military solution,” they announced a pullout date, he said. The prime minister said the best time for making a deal with the Taliban was when America and its Nato allies had one hundred and fifty thousand Nato troops in Afghanistan.

“Extremely unfair,” said the prime minister when told that Pakistan has been allegedly providing military, intelligence and financial support to Taliban, he replied.

He rejected the Afghan government’s claim that 10,000 Taliban or jihadi fighters had crossed over.

“This is absolute nonsense. Why don’t they give us evidence of this?” he asked.

The interviewer also 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 is common sense. If you have a society where people haven’t seen that sort of thing it will have an impact on them.”

Mr Khan, however, clarified that he was quoted out of context, adding: “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.”

The prime minister said that he was “simply talking about the Pakistani society, where we are having a rise, a sharp rise in sex crimes”. Mr Khan said he had specifically used the word “purdah” in his earlier remarks on rape during a telethon in April. “We have to promote a culture of veil (purdah) to avoid temptation.”

He pointed out that Delhi was called a rape capital, while obscenity in Europe had shattered their family system. “There­fore, the people in Pakistan should help government overcome obscenity,” he said.

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

“Absolutely not,” the prime minister replied. Islam, he said, 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.

Asked what relationship he now wanted with the United States, the prime minister said: “When we were in the height of that war on terror, which Pakistan joined, there were suicide bombs taking place all over the country. The business collapse, tourism collapsed. So, we do not want to be a part of any conflict.”

Published in Dawn, July 29th , 2021

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