Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday expressed the desire to establish unconditional bilateral relations between Islamabad and Washington based on mutual trust and friendship.
“We would like to have a relationship based on mutual trust, as equals, as friends and not as before when Pakistan wanted aid and in return it was asked to perform certain tasks for the US,” said the prime minister while speaking at the United States Institute of Peace on the last day of his three-day maiden visit to Washington.
“I am happy to leave the US now, as we have relationship based on mutual interest, which is peace in Afghanistan,” he added.
Prime Minister Imran said that he hated the idea of asking for funds not just from the US but from any other country. “Because, aid has been one of the biggest curses for my country… what it has done is it has created the dependency syndrome,” he remarked.
“When I returned home from Saudi Arabia, everybody asked what have you got from there, as if I went there asking for money… and I think it’s humiliating for a country. Countries rise because of self-respect and self-esteem and no country rise by begging for money.
“I would like to have dignified relationship with the US, where never again should we have this humiliating phase… I can tell you as a Pakistani never did I feel more humiliated when Osama bin Laden was taken out in Pakistan by the US troops.
“We want to have a relationship of friendship and doesn’t really matter you know as one friend can be rich and the other can be not that rich, but so what… it’s all about dignified relationship. That’s what I hope to have from here.”
The premier also reiterated the desire to have friendly relations with all immediate neighbours of the country including India.
He said that his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government reached out to all neighbouring countries to iron out differences and rebuild confidence to establish better trade ties after coming into power last year.
Khan 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 while explaining how the new, multi-pronged approach was different from the policies of the previous US administrations.
In Tuesday’s discussion with Nancy Lindbord, the president of the United States Institute of Peace, PM Imran expressed great 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 US and once the ‘jihad’ was over, the US packed up and left and “we were slapped with sanctions”.
“We were left with 4 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 magnanimity of the fallout. 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.”