Jubilant Premier promises ruthless accountability

KARACHI / WASHINGTON: On the first anniversary of 2018 general elections, Prime Minister Imran Khan has vowed to carry out ruthless accountability of those found involved in loot and plunder.

“We have to transform all institutions which had been destroyed by thieves who only want to loot Pakistan,” he said while speaking to charged party workers who thronged Islamabad International Airport in the wee hours of Thursday morning to welcome him.

The PM, who returned aboard a commercial flight from the US after completing his three-day visit, was given a warm welcome by senior party leaders and workers of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf amid slogans and applause.

In response to scenes of jubilation at the airport, Mr Khan said he felt as if he had come home after winning the World Cup and not from an official visit.

Without naming former rulers, the PM said he had asked the United States and other western countries to help Pakistan in getting back its looted wealth that the ‘thieves and robbers’ had stashed abroad.

Returns to Islamabad where cheering party workers warmly welcome him; PM says Pakistan, US share same objective of Afghan peace

He promised to make Pakistan a great nation.

Earlier in Washington, the PM told members of the US Congress that Pakistan and the United States shared the same objective of reaching a peaceful solution in Afghanistan.

The need for better coordination between the US and Pakistan for restoring peace to the war-ravaged Afghanistan was also discussed at a meeting on Tuesday between PM Khan and US Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo.

The prime minister said that Pakistan would continue to work with the US to promote the Afghan peace process, but it would not be easy. Pakistan was trying its best to get the Taliban engaged not just with the US but also with the Afghan government and would continue to do so, said Mr Khan.

“Secretary Pompeo emphasised the continued importance of the United States and Pakistan working together to advance shared priorities, including Pakistan’s significant role in supporting the Afghan peace process and counterterrorism,” said a statement issued by the US State Department after the meeting.

“Secretary Pompeo welcomed the occasion to discuss opportunities for enhanced cooperation including expanded trade and investment opportunities.”

Mr Pompeo looked forward to continued progress from Pakistan on shared security priorities, including defeating terrorist organizations, which he hoped would form the basis of a reinvigorated partnership, the statement added.

This was a follow-up on their Sept 5, 2018 meeting in Islamabad and took place at the Pakistani ambassador’s residence in Washington.

Unlike the formal setting of the ambassador’s residence, the meeting on the Hill outside the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office was informal and friendly. It was organised by the Pakistan caucus, which is co-chaired by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, a Democrat, and Congressman James Banks, a Republican. The caucus made elaborate arrangements for PM Khan’s first visit to the Hill, with halal food — sushi and vegetable samosas included — arranged neatly on one side, and non-alcoholic drinks on the other.

Ahead of the PM’s address, Speaker Pelosi told the audience how she was introduced to Pakistan as an undergrad, when another student, dressed in a sari, asked her to read books on Mohammad Ali Jinnah. That woman was Naila Ahmed, the daughter of former ambassador Aziz Ahmed. Reading those books taught her the “greatness of statesmanship” and made her realise that the relationship between Pakistan and the US was “important”.

The prime minister said Pakistan was trying its best to get the Taliban engaged not just with the US but also with the Afghan government and would continue to do so. “The whole country is standing behind me, the Pakistan Army, the security forces, all are behind me. We all have one object and it is exactly the same objective as the US, which is to have a peaceful solution as quickly as possible in Afghanistan,” he added.

PM Khan said his meetings with President Donald Trump and Secretary Pompeo were very encouraging and he told them that moving forward the bilateral relationship required mutual trust. “I hope that from now onwards our relationship is on a different level,” he said, noting that unfortunately over the past 40 years, specifically the last 15 years, a lot of misunderstandings had developed.

“So what I hope is that by the time I leave, I would have made people here understand our point of view,” he said, explaining that 70,000 Pakistanis had been killed and billions of dollars were lost when the country was “fighting the US War on Terror”.

“Pakistan had nothing to do with 9/11. Al Qaeda was in Afghanistan. There were no militant Taliban in Pakistan. But we joined the US war,” he said, adding that 40 different militant groups were operating in Pakistan and the governments weren’t in control.

“So, while the US expected us to do more and help [the] US win the war, Pakistan was at that time was fighting for its own existence” and felt that their sacrifices were not appreciated, he said.

“We hope from now onwards our relationship will be completely different and rest assured I will make sure that our relationship is now based on truth … and mutual respect.”

Ms Pelosi assured Mr Khan that the US “values the critical relationship, the partnership between the United States and Pakistan”.