Imran Khan’s Interview

General Mirza Aslam Beg

They tried to cheat him, on the pretext of presenting a book on some cricket matters whereas a full-pledged interview was planned for London based website, named: Middle East Eye (MEE). Imran didn’t know they were journalists recording his interview for the foreign press, yet he was courteous enough to answer questions in a frank and free manner. It is the best, revealing his real-self. We heard him talk from atop the Container, at D-Chowk; from high political pulpits of jalsas as well as his address to the nation as the Prime Minister of Pakistan. His focus had been on corruption, misdeeds of Nawaz Sharif government and heavy debt burden, spoken about with sickening repetition. He talked very little about the plans to build Naya Pakistan. However the way he answered the journalists at Bani Gala, he sounded a very different person, with matured outlook on regional and national matters, as reflected, in his very candid comments:

Pak-Saudi Relations. Khan concedes thathis foreign policy priority is maintaining good relations with Saudi Arabia despite worldwide outrage at Khashoggi’s suspected murder by Saudi officials. He described the journalist’s death as “sad beyond belief”, and indicated that he did not consider credible the latest official Saudi account of what happened. “The Saudi government will have to come up with an answer. We hope there is an explanation that satisfies people and those responsible are punished, I had no choice but to attend Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Selman’s Future Investment Summit because my country was so deeply in debt. A country of 210 million people right now is in worst debt crisis. Unless we get loans from friendly countries, in another two or three months we won’t have enough to service the debt and pay for our imports. We have a long lasting relationship with Saudi Arabia. In times of need Saudi Arabia has helped us, as of now. Our two million Pakistani workers are in Saudi Arabia, whose remittances are a very valuable asset for us. We just cannot afford to have any weakening of our relationship.

Offers to Mediate in Yemen War. Having committed on 6th September 2018, Defence Day, that “Pakistan would never again fight others wars”, he offers to mediate which is the correct gesture. Pakistan can help save Yemen from this devastating war and Saudi Arabia to extricate itself from this tragic war. There are no Pakistani trainers in Yemen, nor our military is taking part in any action there.

War is not the Answer. I have always opposed military solutions. When I first went to Saudi Arabia, I gave my opinion that whenever military tells you that it’s only a matter of weeks or months, to win the war, and you start a war, it has resulted into unintended consequences. Wars rarely go as smoothly as the planners want.” He cited the US invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, which the US expected to lead to quick success but turned into a quagmire lasting for years. This is now happening in Yemen.

US-Iran Relations. He called on the US to drop sanctions against Iran, which he said had also been detrimental to the economy of Pakistan. He urged US President to stop provoking conflict with Iran, and suggested that his government could play a mediating role between Tehran and Riyadh, because the “last thing the Muslim world needs is another conflict, at the behest of US and Israel, which is disturbing for the entire Muslim World. Iran is our neighbour. We already have problem with our neighbour, Afghanistan. He pointed out that Iran was staying faithful to the nuclear deal, signed with US, Russia, China,UK, France and Germany, whereas Trump administration’s decision to repudiate the deal and imposed sanctions, which directly affects Pakistan. Surprising his words, resonate with Mikhail Gobachove’s recent statement:The United States has in effect taken the initiative in destroying the entire system of international treaties and accord that served as the underlying foundation for global peace and security, since World War II. Faced with this, direct threat to peace, we are  not helpless. We must not resign, we must not surrender.”

Iran-Pak Relations. US sanctions have blocked the plan for the construction of the gas pipeline from Iran to Pakistan, and have also impeded trade and banking. Through various US manipulations, sectarian tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran has been abated causing great concern for Pakistan. Pakistan, traditionally has had very close relations both with Saudi Arabia and Iran and we cannot afford to see any weakening of these relations. These words of Imran, make him stand tall with President Erdogan of Turkey, trying to bail-out Iran facing problems due to the draconian sanctions by USA. Joining hand with Turkey, leads Imran to the geo-political reality of regional security to be jointly safeguarded.

Afghanistan. Khan noted that US has realized the need for talks with the Taliban and suggested that the real solution to the country’s problems could be a consensus government. In order to achieve that purpose, intra-Afghan dialogue would be necessary. Referring to 9/11 attacks by US, Khan said: “General Musharraf was pressurized by the Americans and he did something which was probably the biggest blunder ever committed by a Pakistani leader. It had serious consequences we continue to suffer.

Dealing with Our Tribals. What happened in our tribal areas was almost a civil war with people standing up against our troops, leading to full-fledged operations where half the people ended up being internally displaced. Almost three million people were displaced out of six million of the population. The entire area has been devastated. We ended up losing almost 80,000 people dead, that was under American pressure, and never again should Americans be allowed to send troops against our people.”

Talking to Taliban. Earlier on I had advocated a political settlement with Taliban, and for that I was dubbed as “Taliban Khan” and now the Americans themselves have finally realised there was no military solution in Afghanistan and have started talks with the Taliban, because, now they have realized that the Taliban cannot be defeated. Imran acknowledged that “his line of thinking used to be considered anti-American, but now, that the US has accepted that there was no military solution in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s relations with the US would be better than in the past.

Imran Khan has stood-up, identifying himself as a pragmatic leader of Pakistan, facing myride problems and a politically unstable government, Imran is a bowler, yet he picked up the symbol of the bat for his party. Why, I don’t know. It is the ball which knocks-off the bails, as well as the batsman with a wild bouncer. He is now out of the cricket stadium. Let’s see how he leads his team comprising such political stalwarts who in the past declared “to support the uniform, ten times over, as and when it appeared.