Pakistan won't be treated like a hired gun, PM says on US ties

Prime Minister Imran Khan has dismissed the notion that he was involved in a Twitter war with US President Donald Trump and asserted that he would never want to have a relationship where Pakistan is treated like a “hired gun”.

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 PM Imran but his predecessors, the premier said, “No, he was saying Pakistan was the reason for these sanctuaries [for Taliban leaders]. There are no sanctuaries in Pakistan.”

PM Imran 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.

Regarding Trump’s letter to him earlier this week seeking help in the Afghan peace process, PM Imran said, “Peace in Afghanistan is in Pakistan’s interest. We will do everything.”

Whether he will put pressure on the Taliban to come to the negotiating table, the cricketer-turned-politician said, “We will try our best. Putting pressure on the Taliban is easier said than done. Bear in mind that about 40 percent of Afghanistan is now out of the government’s hands.”

Responding to a question regarding his vision for Pakistan’s relationship with the US, PM Imran 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. 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.”

He 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, PM Imran 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?”