ISLAMABAD – Prime Minister Imran Khan said that Pakistan would want a civilised relationship with the US after it leaves Afghanistan, ending its longest war that comprises two decades.
The premier stated his during his recent interview with The New York Times while discussing Pakistan’s future strategy after US leaves Afghanistan.
“After 9/11, Pakistan again opted to join the US war on terror. Now, after the US leaves Afghanistan, basically Pakistan would want a civilised relationship, which you have between nations, and we would like to improve our trading relationship with the US,” he said.
When asked what he meant by a “civilised” relationship, PM Khan said that Pakistan desires “evenhanded” ties as the US has with India and the UK.
He added that Pakistan had always held a closer relationship with the US than neighbouring India, adding that the both countries shared uneven relationship during the war on terror.
The premier recalled that Pakistan lost 70,000 lives after joining the war that also caused losses to the tune of $150 billion.
“The US kept expecting more from Pakistan. And unfortunately, Pakistani governments tried to deliver what they were not capable of,” he said. “What we want in the future is a relationship based on trust and common objectives. That’s actually what we have right now with the US — I mean, our objectives in Afghanistan are exactly the same today.”
He said, “Post the US withdrawal, I don’t know what sort of military relationship it will be. But right now, the relationship should be based on this common objective that there is a political solution in Afghanistan before the United States leaves because Pakistan doesn’t want a civil war, a bloody civil war in Afghanistan.”
“And I’m sure neither does the US, after it leaves, wants the country going up in flames after spending, God knows, $1 or $2 trillion. So that’s a common objective,” he added.
Sharing the efforts made by Pakistan for restoring peace in Afghanistan, he said that Pakistan used its maximum influence on the Taliban.
“Basically, Pakistan was the country that had recognised Taliban — one of three countries after 1996. Given that the United States gave a date of withdrawal, from then onward, our leverage diminished on the Taliban. And the reason is that the moment the United States gave a date of exit, the Taliban basically claimed victory. They’re thinking that they won the war. And so, therefore, our ability to influence them diminishes the stronger they feel,” the premier said.
He higlighted that it was Pakistan that put pressure on the Taliban to engage in talks with the US as well as the Afghan government.
He said that Pakistan has asked Taliban to not go for a military victory after US completes its withdrawal from Afghanistan as such move will lead to civil war in the country.
“And the country that would be affected by civil war, after Afghanistan, would be Pakistan. We would be affected because there are more Pashtuns in Pakistan than in Afghanistan,” he said.
Khan said that since the Taliban are primarily a Pashtun movement, it will have impact on Pakistan in two ways.
“One, we are scared that this will be another influx of refugees into Pakistan. Already, the country has found it very difficult to cope with three million Afghan refugees. And so there will be another influx into Pakistan.”
“Secondly, our vision for the future is lifting our economy and trading through Afghanistan into Central Asia. We have signed very good trade deals with the Central Asian republics, but we can only go there through Afghanistan. If there is a civil war, all that goes down the drain,” he said.
He said that Pakistan will accept a government in Afghanistan if it is elected by people of the country.