See More on Facebook

Diplomacy, Politics

Aid has been one of the biggest curses for Pakistan: PM Imran

“Countries rise because of self respect and self esteem.

Written by

Updated: July 24, 2019

No country rises because of begging and borrowing for money”.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, during an address delivered at the United States Institute of Peace on Tuesday, impressed upon the audience that Pakistan seeks a “dignified relationship with the US” which is not curtailed by the securing or withdrawal of aid.

“I would like to have a relationship between the two countries of mutual trust. I would like to have a relationship as equals, of friendship. Not as it has been before […] Pakistan wanting aid from the US and then for aid it is expected to do certain things.

“The reason why I am happy leaving the US this time is that we now have a relationship based on mutual interest, which is peace in Afghanistan.”

The premier said that he had been asked about whether there would be a request for funds to which he had said: “I hate the idea of asking for funds. Aid has been one of the biggest curses for my country. What it has done is it has created the dependency syndrome.”

No country rises because of begging and borrowing for money,” he added.

Pakistan, US on same page about Afghanistan

He expressed confidence that there was “convergence between the United States and Pakistan” when it came to recognising that there is no military solution to deal with the war in Afghanistan.

He said that he viewed the dynamic to be different now, as both sides were finally looking at things through the same lens.

“The Pakistan Army was fighting but they [the US] thought we are not doing enough […] we had gone out of our way. But this time, we are all on the same page that only a political settlement through dialogue will work,” said the prime minister.

In January this year, US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo had emphasised a new “sustainable” strategy of the United States for fighting terrorism which seeks to end long, drawn-out wars

“President Trump very much wants to end these long, drawn-out [wars] — 17 years now in Afghanistan,” the chief US diplomat had said.

In today’s discussion with Nancy Lindbord, the president of the United States Institute of Peace, PM Imran expressed hope that a political settlement to the Afghan war can be reached and that the relationship between the United States and Pakistan had great potential after this visit.

When asked what makes things different now in the relationship between the two countries compared to the past, the premier said: “I always felt [previously] that the relationship was never multi-pronged, always transactional.”

The premier, providing a backdrop to the circumstances that led to the present situation in Afghanistan, said that the ‘jihadists’ had been convinced to fight against the Soviets and once the ‘jihad’ was over, the US packed up and left and “we were slapped with sanctions”.

“We were left with four million Afghan refugees […] a number of militant groups created to fight the Soviets, all dressed up and nowhere to go, heroin, drugs — which at some point were used to pay for the fighting,” he continued, to highlight the scale of the fallout after the war had ended.

He said that after 9/11 Pakistan again joined the US [in the fight against terrorism].

“I only had one seat in parliament. When Gen Musharraf consulted us [on whether we should join the war] I opposed it and said we should stay neutral.”

He then went on to explain, why he felt it would have been in Pakistan’s best interest to remain neutral.

“We had created these ‘jihadi’ groups in the 80s. We had indoctrinated them in the idea of ‘jihad’. That foreign occupation in Afghanistan […] it was a religious duty to fight them. So all these foreign groups, including Al Qaeda had arrived in Pakistan.”

“Now comes 9/11. And the US invades Afghanistan. And now we are trying to tell the same groups, who had close links with the Pakistan Army — because they were created by the Pakistan Army — now we are telling them because the good guys are there, its no longer ‘jihad’.”

“Now obviously, a lot of them turned against the Pakistan Army because the Pakistan Army was then trying to neutralise them.”

The premier said that the years that followed were “the worst time in our history”.

“These groups turned against the Pakistan Army and the State of Pakistan. And not only that, there were linkages between these groups and the Pakistan security forces because they had created them.

“We had insider attacks, the GHQ was attacked, the generals were killed, the ISI headquarters were attacked. The Army at one point could not go into the cities in military clothes or with military cars. It was that bad,” said PM Imran, as he asserted his view of why Pakistan should have never gotten involved.

“The second thing was the tribal areas. We should never have sent our Army into the tribal areas.

“The tribal area per capita was the most weaponised area in the world, he said,” pausing to provide a brief history of the region that had been left autonomous post-British era and that had “lived by its own rules”.

“In 2004, under pressure from the US, the Pakistan Army went into the tribal areas to flush out Al Qaeda. What happened was, after Tora Bora in Afghanistan, a few of the Al Qaeda moved down into our tribal areas which were semi-autonomous. When they sent the Army in […] you know armies are not meant to go into civilian areas.

“Whenever you send your army into civilian areas there will always be human rights abuses because there is no army there, there are just guerillas operating from villages.

“The collateral damage created what became the Pakistani Taliban. There was no Pakistani Taliban [group] before,” he said.

“In my opinion, we should have stayed neutral. That way we would have control over these militant groups and we could have, in our own time, neutralised them,” he added, before going on to say: “But because we became a part of the US war, they turned against Pakistan.”

He said that what followed was a watershed moment in Pakistani politics, recounting the 2014 Army Public School massacre in which 150 school children were slaughtered by the TTP (Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan) — the Pakistani faction of the Taliban.

“There was a reaction [to the APS tragedy] within Pakistan. All the political parties signed the NAP (National Action Plan) and we all decided that we will never allow any militant groups to operate within Pakistan.”

The premier said that because there had been such a sizable presence of these groups [estimating them to be around 30,000-strong] that had obtained “training in some theatre — Afghanistan or Kashmir”, there had been a challenge which no one was willing to take previously.

“Prior to our government coming into power, past governments did not have the political will […] we were the first government to start disarming militant groups.

“We have taken over their institutes, their seminaries, we have [placed] administrators there. For the first time we have decided there will be no armed militias inside our country.”

‘Strategic depth no longer a concept’

Lindbord then talked about the ongoing Afghan peace process and the possibility of a breakthrough and asked whether the Pakistani government is able and willing to make the commitments to help move the dialogues forward, especially if the Taliban and the government are not able to get a meeting organised.

To this, the premier responded by saying: “The fear among the Pakistan military establishment was always that there would be a two-front situation. So there would be the eastern front, which is India, and if Afghanistan was also in the Indian sphere of influence then Pakistan would be sandwiched between the two.”

He said owing to this worry, the military always wanted what it called “strategic depth”.

“But this has changed. Today there is no concept in Pakistan of strategic depth. Because we feel that by interfering in Afghanistan, in order to secure the strategic depth, we have actually done a lot of damage to our own country. And for no rhyme or reason we have become partisan in Afghanistan’s internal affairs.

He said that in the past there was always this impression that Pakistan Army is an independent entity and governments have no control over it.

“I can sit here and tell you that as I speak, the Pakistan Army is exactly behind the government’s programme. Whatever policies from day one, whether it was peace with India, they were behind us,” he said, pausing to mention that when he had decided to release the Indian pilot captured by the Army, they supported his decision.

“There is no difference between the policies of Pakistan’s security forces or the policies of Pakistan’s democratic government.”

He said that the Afghans should be “left to decide what they want, what sort of government they want and we should facilitate the peace process”.

“So this is the big difference now. We are all on the same page…and fortunately the US is on the same page […] 19 years of conflict and this could have gone on. Thank God for President Trump. This could have gone on for another 19 years without any result.”

‘Pakistan media freer than British media’

Responding to concerns about freedom of the press in Pakistan, the prime minister said that he had spent 18 summers of his life in Britain where he had noted that the media is very open and free.

“The Pakistan media, in my opinion, is even freer than the British media […] it is not just free but sometimes out of control,” said the prime minister.

He went on to say that in Britain no media would have published the kind of remarks that the Pakistani media had since he had come into power.

“A prime minister of a country and this man sits on television and says he is ‘getting divorced tomorrow’,” remarked PM Imran, referring to rumours that had circulated in the media a few months ago about the premier’s allegedly rocky relationship with First Lady Bushra Bibi.

“In the olden days, this guy would have been beaten up. In Nawaz Sharif’s time, he had journalists beaten up. Asif Zardari — people were petrified of him. People would disappear,” he said.

The premier said he, on the other hand, had gone through the legal channels to take action.

“So what we need, is to control the media, not through the government but through a media watchdog.

“They reported wrongly that the IMF had said that the rupee would fall, to a number they quoted. There was a run on the rupee. Who would do that [anywhere else in the world]?”

He said that the government was on the one hand struggling to revive the economy and on the other hand the media was falsely reporting such things and causing a run on the rupee.

“I feel very strongly we will strengthen the media watchdog. It is not censorship. There are 70-80 channels in Pakistan. Only three reported they were having some problems.”

He said that the media would have to be more accountable and will have to answer for their source of income.

“Even if we ask them about taxes, they say ‘this is against freedom of expression’.”

‘Iran should not be pushed into conflict’

When asked what role Pakistan can play in calming the rising tensions with Iran without ruining the relations it has with other countries, the prime minister said that an offer had already been made to Iran for Pakistan to play a role and until recently, Iran was receptive to the idea, but now seemed “desperate”.

He urged all the countries to avoid pushing Iran into a conflict.

“I’m not sure all the countries realise the gravity of the situation if there is a conflict with Iran […] This is not going to be the same as Iraq. This could be much, much, worse. It will have grave, adverse consequences for our country [as well].

“It could unleash terrorism where Al Qaeda would be forgotten,” warned PM Imran.

Enjoyed this story? Share it.

About the Author: Dawn is Pakistan's oldest and most widely read English-language newspaper.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia

Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.

By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Diplomacy, Politics

‘History will take note of those who ridiculed removal of Article 370’: PM Modi in Maharashtra

PM Modi also expressed confidence that the BJP will break all victory records in the October 21 Maharashtra Assembly elections. Prime Minister on Thursday once again lashed out at the opposition saying that history will take note of those who mocked the abrogation of Article 370, that gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir. “Whenever Article 370 will be discussed in history, — the decision that was taken in the interest of the country — the people who opposed and ridiculed will be remembered,” PM Modi said while addressing a poll rally in Maharashtra’s Parli. He said the next week’s state Assembly elections were a battle between BJP’s “karyashakti” (power of development) and opposition’s “swarth shakti” (selfishness). Further targeting the Congress and NCP leaders, he wondered if “frustrated and dejected” people could do anything good for people. “A Congress

By The Statesman
October 18, 2019

Diplomacy, Politics

Malaysia’s PM Mahathir says rail line RTS linking Johor Baru to Singapore to proceed

The rail line has been on again and off again. Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Thursday (Oct 17) said Malaysia will proceed with the 4km Johor Baru to Singapore rail line. His comments about the Rapid Transit System (RTS) rail link followed that of Malaysian Transport Minister Anthony Loke on Tuesday that details of the project will be decided by the Malaysian Cabinet within two weeks. Tun Dr Mahathir said when asked by reporters on Thursday: “We will proceed with the RTS but we will take some time.” Asked if this meant the Malaysian government had resolved 

By The Straits Times
October 18, 2019

Diplomacy, Politics

S. Korean, ASEAN officials look ahead to special summit and stronger regional ties

Korea has increasingly look to Southeast Asia as an export destination and regional partners. Ahead of the highly anticipated summit in Busan next month between the leaders of South Korea and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, top officials from participating countries gathered in the southern port city Wednesday and voiced high expectations for the future of the relationship between South Korea and the ASEAN nations. South Korean Ambassador to ASEAN Lim Sung-nam, ASEAN-Korea Center Secretary-General Lee Hyuk, Busan Mayor Oh Keo-don and Myanmar Ambassador to South Korea U Thant Sin said they looked forward to the upcoming summit, calling it a steppingstone to stronger South Korea-ASEAN ties and to economic prosperity and peace on the Korean Peninsula. “In the past 30 years, the relationship between South Korea and ASEAN has grown to an astonishing degree. Trade volume rose 20-fold and human e

By The Korea Herald
October 18, 2019

Diplomacy, Politics

We will never abandon people of occupied Kashmir, says Army chief during LoC visit

The army chief said that the Pakistan army will fulfil its role no matter the cost. Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa while visiting troops stationed along the Line of Control (LoC) on Wednesday vowed “to never leave Kashmiris alone” in their fight against Indian oppression. “Kashmiris in IOJ&K are bravely facing Indian atrocities under continued siege. We shall never leave them alone and play our rightful role at whatever cost”, said Gen Bajwa. Gen Bajwa’s remarks followed a briefing of the “deliberate targeting of civilians” by Indian troops and the response by Pakistan’s armed forces. A day earlier, at least three civilians died and eight others were injured in Azad Jammu and Kashmir after Indian troops resorted to “indiscri

By Dawn
October 17, 2019

Diplomacy, Politics

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam unveils measures to ease housing crunch

Lam was forced to deliver speech via video after protests. Embattled Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam announced measures aimed at easing a housing shortage on Wednesday (Oct 16) as she battles to restore confidence in her administration and address widespread discontent after four months of mostly violent anti-government protests. Mrs Lam was forced to deliver her speech via video after her annual policy address in the Legislative Council was aborted when some lawmakers repeatedly jeered and shouted at her as she began speaking. After aborting her speech in the chamber tw

By The Straits Times
October 17, 2019

Diplomacy, Politics

Singapore’s 4G leadership lays out plans to take relationship with China ‘to a higher level’

The two countries share a close relationship. Singapore’s fourth-generation leadership has a comprehensive plan for engaging with China economically and plugging into the East Asian giant’s rapid development. Ten members of the “4G” cohort drove home this point as they spoke with Singapore media at the end of a bilateral meeting in Chongqing on Tuesday (Oct 15) that was of particular significance, as the Singapore team was composed fully of this new generation of political leaders. Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat led the Singapore delegation as he co-chaired the 15th Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation, the highest-level bilateral platform between Singapore and China. Mr Heng, who took over the reins from former DPM Teo Chee Hean earlier this year, said his first meeting in the new role was forward-looking and productive, and that he took the opportunity to “

By The Straits Times
October 16, 2019