Staff Reporter Karachi
Prime Minister Imran Khan has said the international community cannot “exonerate” itself from its responsibilities towards the Afghan people after 20 years of military intervention in the war-torn country and urged the same countries to stay engaged with Kabul.
In an interview with foreign magazine Newsweek, the premier said decades of war has had a devastating impact on Afghanistan’s economy, society, and polity and there is a “ray of hope” to bring peace and stability to the country and the broader region.
The premier, however, warned that if rivalry persists with Afghanistan and between global and regional powers, it could lead to more suffering and conflict in Afghanistan.
“This would create new flow of refugees, escalate the threat of terrorism from Afghanistan, and destabilize the entire region.”
“The last thing Pakistan wants is more conflict and turbulence in Afghanistan,” reiterated the premier, adding that it is Islamabad’s hope that the country would be “stabilized, through humanitarian help, economic support, and connectivity and infrastructure projects, and that the US, China and Russia will all contribute to pacifying and reconstructing Afghanistan”.
Imran said that both Pakistan and the United States need to prevent terrorism emanating from Afghanistan and should cooperate in stabilising the war-torn country.
The premier added that the US had “divested a liability”, its costly military intervention in the landlocked country, as the military presence was “not a strategic priority” for Washington.
Imran urged the US to cooperate with Islamabad and help stabilise Afghanistan by addressing the humanitarian crisis in the country and supporting the Afghan economy.
“Both Pakistan and the United States need to prevent terrorism emanating from Afghanistan.
To this end, we should cooperate to help in stabilizing Afghanistan by addressing the humanitarian crisis in that country and supporting its economic recovery.”
The prime minister further said that he does not think the chaotic withdrawal of US armed forces will have a negative effect on Washington’s credibilty in the long term but there may be “an immediate negative impact in the US”.
“I don’t think that the US withdrawal will erode US credibility globally in the long term.”
When asked about the now close defence ties between India and the US, the prime minister said that Islamabad understands its a strategy to “contain China, including through the so-called Quad”.
However, he said Pakistan has its own views on the credibility of this strategy and “India will never confront China, especially to serve US strategic objectives”.
He maintained that Indian rearmament is geared towards regional hegemony and “seventy percent of all Indian military capabilities are deployed against Pakistan, not China”.
“Therefore, Pakistan has legitimate concerns about the provision of the most advanced weapons and technology to India.
Apart from increasing the likelihood of a conflict, an arms race in South Asia will divert both India and Pakistan from investing in socio-economic development and the welfare of their people,” said the premier.
Commenting on whether Pakistan will be caught up in the broader US-China rivalry considering its close relationship with the latter, PM Imran stated that Islamabad saw no reason in its ability to have a cooperative relationship with the US to be impacted by its partnership with China.
The premier stated that: “Pakistan’s relationship with China is 70 years old. It covers economic, technological, military and other sectors.
Throughout this time, Pakistan has simultaneously maintained a close relationship with the United States as well. Indeed, it was Pakistan which first brought the US and China together in 1971.”
Furthermore, speaking of concerns over the pace of progress on CPEC projects slowing, PM Imran stated that the Covid-19 pandemic may have slowed down the progress of the project.
However, he added that, “China had already invested around 25 billion dollars under the umbrella of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor”, and that projects worth 20 billion dollars were under implementation. He further stated that “projects worth a further 25 billion dollars are in the pipeline”.
Imran added that Pakistan has welcomed the ‘Build Back Better World’ initiative of the US and G-7. He said Pakistan doesn’t see this initiative as a rival of China’s BRI project, adding, “It is an initiative which can contribute to building the infrastructure and other projects which are so vital to enable developing countries to achieve their development objectives and the Sustainable Development Goals.”
Speaking about the two-decade-long war on terror spearheaded by the US, the PM said the Pakistan-US counter-terrorism cooperation had successfully decimated al Qaeda, the outfit responsible for 9/11 attacks, from Afghanistan, but the war hasn’t been a success.
He said the root causes of terrorism were not addressed and that resulted in the “proliferation” of the ideology of the terrorist outfits across several regions of the world, including Africa.
The premier also linked the war on terror to the rise in anti-Muslim sentiments in the world, especially the West.
“We see the strongest manifestation of such Islamophobia in India’s extremist Hindutva ideology, which has unleashed state-sponsored terrorism against the Muslims of occupied Jammu and Kashmir and the 200 million Indian Muslim “minority.”
According to the premier, there was a need to chalk out “a new and comprehensive” counterterrorism strategy” to address the terror threat faced by the world now.