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‘US used Pakistan as a hired gun’: Imran Khan blasts Blinken’s remarks about Pakistan

Islamabad: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan is pushing for the Taliban to reach a consensus that will allow recognition of the caretaker government of the ‘Islamic Emirate’ in Afghanistan. According to Khan, in his first interview with a foreign news organization since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan last month, the best way to improve the situation in Afghanistan would be to engage with the Taliban and ‘encourage’ them on issues such as women’s rights and inclusive government.

‘If the Taliban can somehow form a government that is inclusive of all the factions, Afghanistan may be able to have peace after 40 years. We worry that things could fall apart if things go wrong. That could lead to a humanitarian crisis and a refugee crisis. It’s a mistake to think someone else can give Afghan women rights. Afghan women are strong. Give them time. They will get their rights. Women should have the opportunity in society to fulfil their potential,’ Khan said.

After taking power, the group began painting a new picture of what it intends to do, promising to uphold human rights, particularly for women and girls, and to let journalists continue their work. However, women have been excluded from the Taliban’s hard-line interim govt and are ordered to stay home in some areas and their education restricted. Journalists have been arrested and severely beaten for protesting against Taliban rule and for civil rights. Many in the international community do not expect the Taliban to make progress on women’s rights.

CNN reported that the Taliban ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 and treated women as second-class citizens by subjecting them to violence, forced marriages, and a near-invisible presence in the country. Among its demands were for women to cover their bodies completely, to be banned from the workplace, and not to leave home on their own. The Taliban recently ordered the separation of genders in classrooms and mandated that female students, lecturers, and employees wear hijabs in line with their interpretation of Sharia law. Taliban fighters have also used whips and sticks against women protesters, who have taken to the streets in sporadic demonstrations across the country to demand equal rights.

Khan also said the world should grant the Taliban ‘time’ to respect human rights, but warned of chaos without assistance. The Taliban, Khan claimed, were seeking international aid to avoid a crisis, which could be used to push them in the right direction towards legitimacy. However, he warned that Afghanistan could not be controlled by outside forces. ‘No puppet government in Afghanistan is supported by its people. Instead of sitting here and thinking we can control them, we should incentivize them. Because Afghanistan’s present government does not believe it can stop the crisis without international assistance and support. So we need to encourage them’, he said.

Khan also commented on the ‘terrible’ relationship Pakistan has had with the United States, which has proved disastrous for Pakistan. ‘We (Pakistan) were like a hired gun. We were supposed to make them (the US) win the war in Afghanistan, but we never succeeded’, Khan said. Khan said he warned US officials repeatedly that America could not achieve its objectives militarily and would ‘be stuck there’. He said the US should have entered into a political settlement with the Taliban from a ‘position of strength’, not as it was leaving Afghanistan. Khan has previously criticized the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and said he has not spoken with President Joe Biden since the Taliban took over, despite Pakistan being a key non-NATO ally. Despite his busy schedule, we need to develop a multidimensional relationship with the United States rather than just rely on a phone call, Khan said.

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Monday (September 16) that the US would review its relationship with Pakistan following the withdrawal. According to Khan, Pakistan has a ‘multiplicity of interests,’ some of which are in conflict with the US. He called the comments ‘ignorant’ telling CNN that he had never heard of such ignorance. Pakistan has lost thousands of lives in militant attacks by the US, according to Khan. ‘Having sided with the US after 9/11 and the war in Afghanistan, we have become an ally of the US. They must also be aware that there were 480 drone attacks by the US in Pakistan on top of it all,’ he said.

It is the first time a country has been attacked by one of its allies, Khan said. The US has repeatedly accused Pakistan of harbouring terrorists and giving them a safe haven, a charge Khan denied. ‘Where are these safe havens?’ Khan asked. ‘As drones were frequently used along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan, surely they would have been aware if there were safer havens?’ Khan explained that he cannot destroy his country just to ‘fight someone else’s war’.


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