LAHORE: Pakistan’s former ambassador to the US Syeda Abida Hussain sees America no longer interested in the affairs of Afghanistan, a country where it spent 20 years fighting its ‘war on terror’.

“The US now has least interest in Afghanistan. It does not fear export of terror (from Afghanistan) therefore it has lost interest in the affairs of the war-torn country and does not need Pakistan for the purpose as well,” Ms Hussain said in a talk with Dawn.

The former ambassador, 73, who is currently not active in politics, sees no immediate improvement in the relations between Pakistan and the US. “Since Pakistan is not getting any significant aid from the US, it should not be bothered much. Pakistan should look up to China and get closer to Russia.”

She was of the view that the US should have learnt from history that no external force has been able to conquer Afghanistan. “The US tried its best to control Kabul, but couldn’t.”

Ms Hussain who remained Islamabad’s ambassador to the US between 1991 and 1993 is not skeptical about the Taliban’s ‘moderate face’. “I think the Taliban with a moderate face will manage to translate their words into action and the world will have to talk to them. The ‘moderate Taliban’ will be acceptable to the world.”

The Afghan Taliban have promised respect for women’s rights, media freedom and an inclusive government and Ms Hussain believes they may live up to their claim this time around.

The politician from Jhang whose husband, Fakhar Imam, is a member of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s federal cabinet does not see any problems emanating from Afghanistan for Pakistan in the wake of the Taliban takeover. “Pakistan will have no issue with the Taliban government and there are also no chances of terrorism reemerging in Pakistan because of the situation or presence of (banned) militant groups such as the TTP (Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan) in either country. Those against the Taliban are fleeing,” she said.

Abida Hussain had also penned a political autobiography-cum-memoir – The Political Odyssey of a Pakistani Woman -- that charts the events from the latter part of Ayub Khan’s rule to the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in 2007.

An ardent supporter of Ms Bhutto, she remained associated with the PPP and PML-N during her political life. She also served as the federal minister for information and population welfare, and helped launch the political career of her daughter Sughra Imam, who was a senator in the last PPP government.

About Pakistani politics, Ms Hussain says she is not satisfied with the PTI government for its failure to control price hike and inflation. She is of the view that the ruling party may not return to power in the 2023 elections if these failures continue.

“However, the PTI has the best chance to get back to power after the next polls if in the last two years of its tenure it manages to control inflation and provide relief to the masses. Imran Khan’s main focus should be on improving the economy, as the opposition -- PML-N and PPP -- stands no chance to knock him off if he manages to improve the economy.”

Commenting on the civil-military relationship, the former envoy says: “At present, the relations between Imran Khan and the military establishment are good as the latter seems satisfied with the former’s performance.”

Ms Hussain also advises the PTI government to take immediate steps to control population.

Published in Dawn, September 7th, 2021

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