• Calls to incentivise Taliban to bring country out of crisis
• Insists Afghan women are strong, can get rights
• Says blunder to have sided with US in Afghan war
• Calls Joe Biden a busy man

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday said Afghanistan should not be controlled from outside and it could see peace after four decades of conflict if the Taliban took full control and managed to keep all factions together.

In an interview with CNN, PM Khan said Afghan women were strong enough to get their rights. He said the US President Joe Biden was quite busy to call him to discuss the situation in Afghanistan.

Talking to Becky Anderson a month after the takeover of Kabul by the Taliban, PM Khan said he feared that if Taliban failed to handle the situation, there would be chaos in Afghanistan and no peace in the region.

“If it goes wrong, there will be chaos in the neighbouring country, refugee problem and terrorism. Unstable Afghanistan will cause refugees crisis and bloody terrorism in Afghanistan,” he said.

Prime Minister Khan said Afghanistan was at a “historic crossroad” where it could not be controlled from outside.

“Where Afghanistan goes from here, I am afraid none of us can predict,” he said, adding that, “we can hope and pray that there is peace after 40 years. That the Taliban, what they have said, that they want an inclusive government, they want women rights — in their own context, they want human rights; they have given amnesty so, so far what they have said [shows] clearly they want international acceptability.”

The prime minister said it was a “fallacy” that Afghanistan could be controlled from outside, saying history showed “no puppet government in Afghanistan is supported by the people”.

“So rather than sitting here and thinking that we can control them, we should incentivise them because this current government in Afghanistan clearly feels that without international aid and help they will not be able to stop this crisis. We [...] should push them in the right direction,” he said.

Replying to a question, PM Khan said Pakistan’s premier spy agency — Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) — had connections with Afghan Taliban as it was the job of intelligence agencies.

“Intelligence agencies’ job is to have connections with everyone just like American CIA was talking to Taliban. It’s a job of intelligence agencies,” he said.

When pressed about concerns regarding women’s rights, Imran Khan said it was a “mistake” to think someone from outside would give Afghan women their rights.

“Afghan women are strong. Give them time, they will get their rights,” he said, adding that “you cannot impose women’s rights from abroad”.

He said Pakistan had suffered the most from the US war in Afghanistan after 9/11, adding that even today his country was being attacked by militants operating from Afghanistan.

“Once there were 50 militant groups attacking Pakistan and now three sets of terrorist groups — ISIS, [and] Pakistani Taliban and the Baloch terrorists — were using Afghan soil to attack us,” he added.

He said Pakistan had committed a blunder by siding with the US in its war against Afghanistan.

“If I had been the prime minister, I would have never joined the US war,” he said, adding that not only did Pakistan suffer the most as a result of the war, it faced 480 drone attacks from the US.

Mr Khan said the US gave $9 billion civilian and $11 billion military aid to Pakistan, but Pakistanis felt that after the country joined the US war, there were arms everywhere (in Pakistan), Benazir Bhutto (former prime minister) was assassinated and the economy suffered.

“However, we want normal relations with the US,” he said.

PM Khan rejected the impression that there was a trust deficit between the US and Pakistan, calling it “ignorance” to believe that Islamabad supported the Haqqani group in Afghanistan. “The fact is that the Haqqani tribe lives in Afghanistan but some of their leaders were born in Afghan refugees camps in Pakistan,” he added.

Responding to a question about a possible influx of refugees, the prime minister said due to weak economy, Pakistan could not feed more Afghans.

“We already have three million Afghan refugees; our economy has recently gotten out of crisis difficulty, thus we cannot take more refugees,” he added.

In the 80s, he said, Pakistan joined the US against the Soviets and trained the Mujahideen for jihad against foreign occupation in Afghanistan.

“Fast forward to 9/11, US needs us in Afghanistan. George Bush asked Pakistan to help and he famously said, ‘We will not abandon Pakistan again.’ Pakistan joined the US war in Afghanistan. [If I was] the prime minister, I would never have done that,” he added.

Prime Minister Imran Khan said he had not spoken to US President Joe Biden since the collapse of the Afghan government.

When asked by Becky Anderson to confirm that Biden had not called Imran since coming into office, the premier replied: “He is a busy man.”

“Pakistan is a major non-Nato ally and yet no call between you and the US president. Do you see this as punishment for supporting the Taliban while they were killing US troops,” the host asked.

Prime Minister Imran replied Biden should be asked “why he is too busy to call”.

Published in Dawn, September 16th, 2021

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