US pushed Pakistan away, we are not your hired gun: PM Imran

Prime Minister Imran Khan reflected on the tumultuous bilateral relationship between Islamabad and Washington and said it was the “United States which basically pushed Pakistan away”.In an interview with The Washington Post, the premier stressed on two-dimensional ties. “Our relationship with China is not one-dimensional. It’s a trade relationship between two countries. We want a similar relationship with the US.”The prime minister elaborated that the country was not “hedging” towards China, rather it was Washington’s attitude which had brought a change in the bilateral relationship.

PM Imran meets Chinese President Xi in Beijing

“I would never want to have a relationship where Pakistan is treated like a hired gun – given money to fight someone else’s war,” he said, referring to the 1980s war against the Soviet Union and the ongoing war on terror.“We should never put ourselves in this position again. It not only cost us human lives, the devastation of our tribal areas, but it also cost us our dignity. We would like a proper relationship with the US.”When asked why he harboured anti-US sentiments, the premier clarified that disagreeing with US policies does not equate to him being anti-American.“This is a very imperialistic approach. You are either with me or against me,” he added.Referring to US President Donald Trump’s South Asia policy, PM Imran reiterated his stance of having dialogue to achieve peace in war-torn Afghanistan.“I talked for years about how there was no military solution in Afghanistan and they called me Taliban Khan. If you do not agree with US policy, you were thought to be anti-American.”The premier also referred to the Twitter spat with Trump as “just setting the record right.” He said the exchange was “about being blamed for deeply flawed US policies — the military approach to Afghanistan”.Welcoming the US bid to engage in talks with the Afghan Taliban, he emphasised that Islamabad did not want the US to leave Afghanistan in a hurry as they did in 1989. “The last thing we want is to have chaos in Afghanistan. There should be a settlement this time. In 1989, what happened was the Taliban emerged out of the chaos.”PM Imran further said the Afghan Taliban “clearly realise that for the reconstruction of Afghanistan, they will need American help”.The cricketer-turned-statesman also dismissed US’s allegations of harbouring terrorists on Pakistani soil. “There are no sanctuaries in Pakistan,” he asserted.

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“When I came into power, I got a complete briefing from the security forces. They said that we have time and time again asked the Americans, “Can you tell us where the sanctuaries are, and we will go after them?” There are no sanctuaries in Pakistan.”“Pakistan had nothing to do with 9/11. al Qaeda was in Afghanistan. No Pakistani was involved. And yet Pakistan was asked to participate in the US war,” lamented the prime minister.“In the 1980s, we collaborated with the US in the Soviet jihad there. Then, in 1989, when the Soviets packed up and left, the US did too. Pakistan was left with militant groups and four million Afghan refugees.”“If we had stayed neutral after 9/11, I reckon we would have saved ourselves from the devastation that took place afterwards. By becoming the front-line state for the US in the war on terror, this country went through hell. Over 80,000 people died in the war, and estimates are that over $150 billion was lost in the economy. Investors wouldn’t come, nor would sports teams. Pakistan was known as the most dangerous place in the world.”Noting that there were 2.7 million Afghan refugees in the country, the prime minister added that “if there are a few hundred, maybe 2,000 to 3,000 Taliban who move into Pakistan, they could easily move into these Afghan refugee camps.”Recalling the US special forces raid that killed Osama bin Laden, the premier reproached the ally for not trusting Pakistan. “It was humiliating that we were losing our soldiers and civilians and [suffering terrorist] bomb attacks because we were participating in the US war, and then our ally did not trust us to kill bin Laden. They should have tipped off Pakistan. We did not know whether we were a friend or a foe.”PM Imran also admonished US for drone strikes. “Who would not be against drone attacks? Who would allow a drone attack in their country when, with one attack, you kill one terrorist and 10 friends and neighbours? Has there ever been a case of a country being bombed by its own ally? Of course, I objected to it. All it did was create more anti-Americanism.”The prime minister criticised the US for being misinformed about on ground reality and asked of if a few thousand insurgents are the reason for the US military – with 150,000 NATO troops with the best equipment – failure in Afghanistan.“The United States expected Pakistan to take on the Afghan Taliban. But the Afghan Taliban were not hitting Pakistan. Tehrik-e-Taliban and al-Qaeda were hitting us.”On India’s repeated dismissal of peace talks, PM Imran said the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was reluctant to engage in dialogue due to upcoming elections. “The ruling party has an anti-Muslim, anti-Pakistan approach. They rebuffed all my overtures.”“I have opened a visa-free peace corridor with India called Kartarpur [so that Indian Sikhs can visit a holy shrine in Pakistan]. Let’s hope that after the election is over, we can again resume talks with India.”He also asserted that Pakistan wanted the Mumbai attacks case to reach its conclusion. “I have asked our government to find out the status of the case. Resolving that case is in our interest because it was an act of terrorism.”Elaborating on his visits to the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and China and the talks with International Monetary Fund (IMF), he admitted to having received financial aid.“We do not want to have conditions imposed on us which would cause more unemployment and inflation. Some of the IMF conditions are likely to harm the common man — that’s what I’m worried about.”

IMF only viable option, PM Imran Khan told

“In the last 30 years, we’ve had 16 IMF programmes. If we go with the IMF, we will make sure this is the last time. Pakistan has never made the structural changes that are needed. Now we have embarked on structural reforms. Already exports are picking up, remittances are going up. We need higher exports, and we are curbing our imports. Already, we have investors coming into Pakistan.”PM Imran reviewed his government’s steps and boasted the return of foreign direct investment (FDI). He said major companies were investing again “because we are a clean government. We won’t be asking them for money.”On the economic front, he further added that the PTI was “making major reforms in tax collection — getting more people to pay taxes. We want people to be able to make money here.”“In the 1960s, we were growing fast, and then in the 1970s, [former prime minister Zulfiqar Ali] Bhutto came in with a socialist program. Somehow the mindset became anti-wealth-creation. This has persisted, sadly, in our bureaucracy and in our political class. We want to make Pakistan an easy place to invest in so that people can utilise our young population.”

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