By Dure Akram for UWI reporting from Lahore, Pakistan
In an interview to UWI, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan speaks of India’s foreign policy as an example to follow, calls Afghanistan “a future life line” and blames his government of not establishing according relations “due to fear from the U.S.”. Mr. Khan also predicts progress of de-dollarization and hails the recent moves to normalize relations in the Middle East.
Here comes the second and final part of our interview with Imran Khan, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan. The interview was made two days before he got arrested.
Sometimes, a lot can change in a day. While it was only on Monday that United World spoke with former prime minister Imran Khan at his heavily-guarded residence in Lahore, the 70-year-old has since then been arrested from the capital Islamabad by paramilitary officers.
Deadly riots and disorder have become the order of the day to protest the intense exchanges in a courtyard where Mr. Khan–who commands the support of millions–had made an appearance to face corruption charges.
The unthinkable seems to have taken his party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) by surprise, whose supporters are intent on shutting down the country. However, given the dozens of cases ranging from corruption to terrorism to sedition registered within a year of being ousted from power in a no-confidence vote, Mr. Khan might have smelled the battle afar off. After all, he has, on countless occasions, slammed his legal troubles as politically motivated only to distract him from his demand for snap elections. In the first part of this interview, he confidently asserted that he would make a comeback, and that too, with a strong majority, to continue making sweeping reforms in almost all spheres of the country.
In a bid to put our wide-ranging conversation in a nutshell, here are some pertinent takeaways on Mr. Khan’s views on the foreign policy of Pakistan and how he would pursue relations with the outside world once he comes to power:
Pakistan should take India’s foreign policy as an example
On relations with the immediate neighborhood and Muslim bloc
“The problem is when you become part of blocs, you alienate all the other people who are not in the block. I have always maintained that India has one of the best foreign policies. Its very dignified policy guarantees respect in the world because of its independence. India was non-aligned during the Cold War and, subsequently, has a relationship with everyone.
Today, it is a part of the QUAD (Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, UWI) with the United States and yet imported cheap oil from Russia during the Ukraine war. That’s the sort of foreign policy that Pakistan should have.”
“Never thought it was a mistake” to land in Russia on the day of Ukraine operation
On whether his controversial trip to Russia was a mistake
“I never thought (landing into Russia that day, UWI) was a mistake. How were we supposed to know that when I arrived there, Russian forces would be walking into Ukraine? Of course, had I known, I would have delayed the trip. But as it happened, I wasn’t supposed to know. Had President Putin consulted me, I might have delayed my trip.”
On India’s cold reception to Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari during a summit held at Goa
“Firstly, let me tell you that it was very foolish of (Bilawal) to go to India. He achieved nothing there except earning humiliation. Running around like a headless chicken all over the world. I don’t know what he has achieved from spending probably millions of dollars on these aimless trips. When I was the prime minister, every foreign trip was evaluated in light of what Pakistan would gain from that trip. At a time when the country is already bankrupt and we are short of dollars, why would anyone go on a trip where he could achieve nothing?
India refuses to come to Pakistan for the Asia Cup. India has point-blank refused to attend any conference in Pakistan so why was this need for Pakistan to rush to India?
Did he think that he was such a good-looking boy that he would win them over? What did he think he was going to achieve there?
The Indian hostility against him was clear as day. He had made remarks against Modi in, I think, New York and he should have been prepared for them not receiving him very well there.
However, this still does not absolve the Indian foreign minister for the disgraceful manner in which he humiliated Bilawal. This goes against all etiquettes of hospitality. When someone is hosting a conference, you do not treat your guests the way he did. And I thought it was very condemnable. It just reeked of arrogance and misplaced arrogance. He probably felt that Pakistan is very weak and therefore, he would get away with these disgraceful comments.”
“Pleased to see” that Saudi Arabia has taken the initiative
On Pakistan being largely unaware of a phenomenal breakthrough between Saudi Arabia and Iran
“I tried my best to decrease the hostilities between Iran and Saudi Arabia. In fact, Prince Mohammed bin Salman had asked for my help and therefore, I went to Iran and went back to Saudi Arabia. We were proposing an end to the Yemen war.
I also tried my best to address and reduce the hostility between Saudi Arabia and Türkiye.
As a Pakistani, I am so pleased that Saudi Arabia has now taken the initiative and mended fences with Iran and Türkiye. This is one of the best news for the whole region, especially considering the prospects of peace in Yemen. The diplomacy of Prince Mohammed bin Salman should be commended because he is moving in the right direction. Saudi Arabia can actually become a pivot for the whole region. There will be more trade, which would lead to prosperity throughout the region.
Look at the European Union. They have raised their standard of living by trading with each other. And now, look at us, we have a huge problem on our Eastern border we can’t trade with them, but then, we’ve hardly invested in any trade with the rest of our neighbors.
Joint cultural projects of Pakistan and Türkiye against “Westernization”
On pursuing a relationship with Türkiye
“Well, I had a very good relationship with President Erdoğan and we wanted to improve our trade relationship along with working on our cultural relationship. Because of him, I got the telecasting rights to a phenomenal TV drama Ertuğrul. We wished to protect our youth, constantly being bombarded with Western movies that take them away from their culture, are young people. The same is the case with Türkiye where people are getting Westernized and moving away from their own culture. They don’t know about the rich heritage of Türkiye.
We even worked on a collaboration to make joint ventures. One of the proposed films was about this freedom fighter from Pakistan who had fought in Türkiye during the Khilafat movement. We once had a meeting with Malaysia’s Mahathir Mohammad where we wanted all three nations to collaborate in developing our own history, the Muslim history, the Islamic history.
But, linkages take time to develop. You establish contact. Then, you set up a structure and people on the ground start collaborating.
“Erdoğan probably will win, his party is well organized”
When asked about the ongoing general polls in Türkiye
“First of all, I have to state that electing the head of state is the sole prerogative of the people of that country. It’s about what they want, what their preferences are.
But I have to say that for me, President Erdoğan is one of the true statesmen of the Muslim world. Because you know, when we were fighting our case for oppression in Kashmir, he was among the only three heads of countries that spoke out. Others would not even utter a word against India. He has always stood up for causes, you know, represents the Muslim world and people have a great respect for him.
I think he will win. His party is very well organized. You can’t beat a grassroots party like that. I saw the incredible reception he got when he went to the hospital. People there love him.”
“Without holding elections, we cannot have political stability”
On the Chinese Foreign Minister’s advice for Pakistan to work on domestic stability
“Any sensible person, whether a Pakistani or someone from outside Pakistan, if asked about the ongoing mess that Pakistan is embroiled in, would suggest holding elections because elections bring political stability. The path to economic stability follows afterwards.
However, these criminals (referring to the coalition government, UWI) are worried about their stolen wealth, the NROs (National Reconciliation Ordinance, which grants amnesty, UWI) and their handlers are worried about losing their power. Otherwise, everyone in Pakistan knows that without holding elections, we cannot have political stability.”
On a general preference to opt for de-dollarization
“Nothing is permanent. The only permanent thing in the world is change. And I see a change taking place because you can see other blocks like China emerging as an economic giant. Because of the Ukraine war, Russia is also moving in much closer to China than ever. So, I think in the future, you will see, the old global power system will shift, as it always has in history.”
Afghanistan is Pakistan’s “life line” to Central Asia, but government doesn’t establish proper relationship due to “fear from the U.S.”
On the implications of Pakistan hosting the world’s second-largest refugee population while all efforts to get Afghan Taliban’s help in the fight against terror outfits continue to go down the drain
“Actually, it should have been the easiest thing to develop a powerful relationship with this new Afghan government. We were the closest to them and we had already been moving in the right direction when the change took place. Unfortunately, our government was gone and this government had other priorities. Imagine the foreign minister has been all over the world but Bilawal has still not visited Afghanistan. One reason is that he might not come back, but let’s not talk about that.
The most important country for us is Afghanistan. We have a two-and-a-half thousand-kilometer border with them. We don’t have to just focus on the refugee problem. Afghanistan is a future lifeline to Central Asia. That’s why we were working on trade deals. We were talking about a railway line from Uzbekistan all the way through Afghanistan to Pakistan, which would completely change the amount of trade with Central Asia.
Why would they not want to develop a proper relationship with Afghanistan? Because of fear of offending America. This is it. However, our future lies in our own hands. We need a good relationship with Iran, with Afghanistan, with Central Asian countries and hopefully, one day, when a sensible government comes to power in India, with India, because regional trade is one of the most important ways to bring prosperity.
It’s amazing that a state is doing all this out of fear of offending the US. He has spent millions of dollars running around all over the world and yet he has not been to Afghanistan.”
Stability in Afghanistan benefits Pakistan
On the human rights situation in Afghanistan
“The problem is that the Western countries have latched on to the argument that women are not empowered in Afghanistan. That’s just one thing. But the fact is they cannot ignore peace in Afghanistan, which has arrived after 40 years. If you ask the people of Afghanistan, they’ll talk about the peace they are finally seeing after 40 years of conflict. But the Western countries don’t realize this. I mean, they’re not bothered that Afghanistan finally has stability.
This matters a lot to Pakistan because if there’s instability in Afghanistan, it would overflow into Pakistan considering our long border. We had three groups operating from Afghanistan into Pakistan, TTP, ISIL and Baloch separatists. Now, we don’t. So at least, for us, it should be the best thing to finally see peace in Afghanistan and a government that responds.
The previous governments were actually helping the insurgency within Pakistan because they were pro-India. So just because the U.S. is upset, we stop thinking about our future. What could explain that?”