ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday said that the Pakistani nation has rendered 70,000 sacrifices in war against terrorism as a high price of Afghan war but it failed to build firm confidence between Islamabad and Washington, ARY News reported.
PM Khan, while addressing to the US Institute of Peace in Washington, reiterated, “I have always adopted the stance that Afghan issue could be resolved through dialogues. I’ve also asked everyone in the United States that there is no military solution to the issue.”
“US nationals were not aware of the history of Afghanistan,” he added.
The premier said, “At this moment, Pakistan and US ties are on its best level and both countries have a similar stance on the Afghan issue. It happens for the first time that the Pakistani government, US administration and security institutions are on the same page. We could have found a solution with consensus although it is not an easy task.”
While commenting over his meeting with the US President, PM Khan said, “It was a pleasant experience to meet Donald Trump and his hospitality was praiseworthy.”
PM Khan said, “After taking retirement from the cricket, I had started social activities and built a cancer hospital but later I sensed that only social activities cannot transform the situation of the country. I thought that it is necessary to join politics for bringing change into the country. In our country, the prime reason for its downfall is corruption. I’ve struggled against corruption for 15 years as the ruling segment produced a huge loss to the country.”
“We had faced many problems after coming into power and the first one was the economic situation as the country was near to bankruptcy due to corruption of the former rulers. We are making efforts for stablise our institutions which would take some time.”
“It seems like fighting mafia instead of political parties in Pakistan. Even Supreme Court had compared former rulers with Sicilian Mafia. We have tightened the noose around such mafia after assuming charge of the government. The present government has decided to spend money on poor people which would be recovered from the looters of the national exchequer. I firmly believe that we could stabilise our economy.”
“The rate of tax collection is very low and the present government is making all-out efforts to improve the taxation system. In 2008, Pakistan’s debt volume was Rs6,000 billion which soared to Rs30,000 billion in the last 10 years by the previous rulers. Half of the overall income of the country was spent on payments of interests against hefty loan during the last year.”
“Our government is now taking concrete measures to eliminate poverty.”
Ties with neighbouring countries
“We had invited India for dialogues just after assuming charge of the government. Kashmir is the prime dispute between Pakistan and India, whereas, both countries are facing the menace of poverty.”
“Our second neighbour is Afghanistan and we’ve invited President Ashraf Ghani to Pakistan.”
PM Khan said that Islamabad has prioritised to establish good ties with all of its neighbours and it is essential for the development of the region.
Question and answer session
PM Imran Khan, during the question and answer session, admitted that Pakistan and US ties have never remained multidimensional as the United States left the region after the end of the Afghan jihad. Pakistan had also faced Pressler sanctions from the US.
“Pakistan and US had come closer after 9/11 incident. I had opposed to become part of US war at that time. We had never feel the need of sending troops to our tribal areas before 9/11 but it had been sent to conduct an operation there in 2004.”
National Action Plan
The premier detailed that the present government is the first that is taking practical steps against armed groups in the country. All political parties had signed the National Action Plan (NAP) after the occurrence of APS incident, he added.
“Pakistan’s military establishment had expressed fear of facing challenges at eastern border. But at this stage, the political and military leadership are on same page.”
Afghanistan reconciliation process
PM Khan said, “The leadership of Afghan Taliban wanted to meet me a few months ago. However, the Afghanistan government had opposed the meeting. However, I will talk to them [Taliban] now after my recent meetings with Donald Trump and Ashraf Ghani to make them agree for talks in a move to facilitate the Afghan peace process. We are willing to see the participation of all neighbours of Afghanistan in the peace dialogues.”
While rejecting the allegations of curbing freedom of voice, the premier said, “Pakistani media is more independent than British media. Let think about it, if television is broadcasting reports regarding the expected divorce of a prime minister. Are you calling it freedom?”
He added, “Even American ambassador told me that media is out of control. The media had once aired wrong reports regarding the devaluation of Pakistani rupee with reference to the talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). We will keep an eye on our media censorship will not be allowed. I am the one who gets the major benefit of independent media.”
PM Khan highlighted issues being faced by the government from non-governmental organisations.
He said that the extremists have started targeting NGOs after the issue of Shakil Afridi and several anti-polio campaigners had been shot dead in the country. Shakil Afridi was spying inside the country by using the name of NGO.
“The government is establishing a guideline for NGOs and the foreign minister is in talks over the matter. Three German NGOs have returned to Pakistan after clearance.”
PM Khan clarified that the solution of Kashmir dispute should be made in accordance with the desires of Kashmiris. Pakistan and India had come very close to the resolution of Kashmir dispute during Pervez Musharraf’s era.
While answering to a question, PM Khan said that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif had been questioned regarding his flats after the emergence of Panama Papers and he was sentenced after being taken to the court.
He added that a media group was busy to prove Nawaz Sharif as innocent to prevent him from facing penalties. “I had faced character assassination and personal attacks [during that phase].”
“The opposition has recently brought a video against a judge like Sicilian Mafia when he had given a verdict against them.”
The premier further revealed, “When we questioned media regarding the tax payments then it termed it as an attack of the freedom of voice. A media group went up to the last limit to hide crimes of former rulers.”
“Social media has played a vital role in the promotion of democracy.”
The premier clarified that the government is now taking concrete measures to eliminate corruption from the country.
Uplift of tribal areas, PTM
PM Khan said, “Pakistan has organised elections in tribal areas for the first time in history. The elections have been completed and issues are being resolved now. The government is now making biggest-ever investment in the tribal parts. I had been called ‘Taliban Khan’ whenever I urged to find a non-military solution of the tribal areas.”
“Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement leaders had started attacks on the military troops and the government will not allow any armed militia to continues its activities in the country.
PM Imran Khan said, “Pakistan has no connection with the Pulwama incident as we had already decided to eliminate armed groups from the country before the attack.”
PM Khan clarified that he wanted to give a message for establishing bilateral ties on the basis of firm confidence from both sides.
“I am seeking friendship but not requesting any assistance to Pakistan like in past. It is good to witness interest of Pakistan and the US for establishing peace in Afghanistan. However, I’m totally against aid as this system had worsened the situation in Pakistan.”