Pak­istan won’t be a ‘hired gun any more’

Gulf Times - - PAKISTAN -

Prime min­is­ter dis­misses no­tion of hav­ing Twit­ter war with Trump

Pak­istan will no longer act as a hired gun in some­one else’s war, Prime Min­is­ter Im­ran Khan said yes­ter­day, strik­ing a note of de­fi­ance against US de­mands for Islamabad to do more in the bat­tle against mil­i­tancy.

Khan – who also re­it­er­ated his back­ing for a re­cent push by the US for talks with the Tal­iban in Afghanistan – said in a tele­vised ad­dress that he wants Pak­istan to move for­ward with “hon­our”.

“We will no longer fight some­one else’s war, nor will we bow down in front of any­one,” the for­mer crick­eter said.

“I would never want to have a re­la­tion­ship where Pak­istan is treated like a hired gun given money to fight some­one else’s war. We should never put our­selves in this po­si­tion again,” he said. “It not only cost us hu­man lives, dev­as­ta­tion of our tribal ar­eas, but it also cost us our dig­nity. We would like a proper re­la­tion­ship with the US.”

Khan elab­o­rated: “For in­stance, our re­la­tion­ship with China is not one-di­men­sional. It’s a trade re­la­tion­ship be­tween two coun­tries. We want a sim­i­lar re­la­tion­ship with the US.”

When asked that some peo­ple think he’s try­ing to hedge his bets us­ing China, the prime min­is­ter said: “The US has ba­si­cally pushed Pak­istan away.”

On whether he thinks “Pak­istan’s re­la­tion­ship with the US should warm up”, the premier re­sponded: “Who would not want to be friends with a su­per­power?”

Islamabad joined Wash­ing­ton’s “war on ter­ror” in 2001, and says it has paid a heavy price for the al­liance, which sparked an Is­lamist back­lash and home­grown mil­i­tant groups who turned their guns on the Pak­istani state, cost­ing thou­sands of lives.

Se­cu­rity has dra­mat­i­cally im­proved in re­cent years af­ter a mil­i­tary crack­down.

How­ever, the US con­tin­ues to ac­cuse Islamabad of ig­nor­ing or even collaborating with groups such as the Afghan Tal­iban and the Haqqani net­work, which al­legedly at­tack Afghanistan from safe havens along the bor­der be­tween the two coun­tries.

The White House be­lieves that Pak­istan’s In­ter-Ser­vices In­tel­li­gence agency and other mil­i­tary bod­ies have long helped fund and arm the Tal­iban both for ide­o­log­i­cal rea­sons and to counter ris­ing In­dian in­flu­ence in Afghanistan.

It be­lieves that a Pak­istani crack­down on the mil­i­tants could be piv­otal in de­cid­ing the out­come of the war.

Khan, who has long been vo­cal about Pak­istan’s role in the war on ter­ror, said his coun­try wants “peace with all”.

“Thank (God) that to­day, the same peo­ple who were ask­ing to do more are now ask­ing us to help them in Afghanistan, to es­tab­lish peace and to ne­go­ti­ate,” he said.

More than 17 years af­ter the US in­va­sion, Wash­ing­ton has stepped up its bid for talks with the resur­gent Tal­iban with a flurry of re­cent diplo­matic ef­forts.

This week the Pak­istani for­eign min­istry said Khan had been sent a let­ter by US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump seek­ing Islamabad’s sup­port in se­cur­ing a peace deal.

In the let­ter, Trump said that a set­tle­ment is “his most im­por­tant re­gional pri­or­ity”, the Pak­istani for­eign min­istry stated.

“In this re­gard, he has sought Pak­istan’s sup­port and fa­cil­i­ta­tion,” it con­tin­ued.

Re­gard­ing Trump’s let­ter, Khan said: “Peace in Afghanistan is in Pak­istan’s in­ter­est. We will do ev­ery­thing.”

On whether he will put pres­sure on the Tal­iban to come to the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble, the premier said: “We will try our best. Putting pres­sure on the Tal­iban is eas­ier said than done.

“Bear in mind that about 40% of Afghanistan is now out of the gov­ern­ment’s hands.”

Trump’s let­ter was fol­lowed by a visit from US en­voy Zal­may Khalilzad, who has said he hopes a deal can be in place be­fore the Afghan pres­i­den­tial elec­tions, set for April next year.

Prime Min­is­ter Khan has also dis­missed the no­tion that he was in­volved in a Twit­ter war with Trump.

In an in­ter­view to the Wash­ing­ton Post, PM Im­ran com­mented on the Twit­ter ex­change be­tween him and the US pres­i­dent and said: “It was not re­ally a Twit­ter war, it was just set­ting the record right.

“The ex­change was about be­ing blamed for deeply flawed US poli­cies the mil­i­tary ap­proach to Afghanistan.”

When pointed out by the in­ter­viewer, Lally Wey­mouth, that Trump wasn’t blam­ing the prime min­is­ter but his pre­de­ces­sors, Khan said: “No, he was say­ing Pak­istan was the rea­son for these sanc­tu­ar­ies [for Tal­iban lead­ers]. There are no sanc­tu­ar­ies in Pak­istan.”

The prime min­is­ter con­tin­ued: “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.”

“Our bor­der be­tween Pak­istan and Afghanistan has the great­est amount of sur­veil­lance. The US has satel­lites and drones. These peo­ple cross­ing would be seen,” he added.

Prime Min­is­ter Khan: We will no longer fight some­one else’s war, nor will we bow down in front of any­one.

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