Pakistan, by joining the US after 9/11, committed one of the biggest blunders, says Prime Minister Imran Khan.
The premier was speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. He was in conversation with Richard N Haass, the president of CFR.
We lost 70,000 Pakistanis in the war on terror. It is why we want to stay away from conflict now, the premier said.
Speaking about Pakistan’s economy and its recent agreement with the IMF, PM Khan said that the moment you have a deficit, it means you’re not managing your economy properly. He placed blame on the inability of previous governments to contain the deficit.
We have cut our deficit by almost 70%, he claimed. “We are restructuring the economy to make it export-based growth,” he said.
“The situation we found ourselves in when we came into power 13 months ago was the worst,” he said, adding that it is China who helped Pakistan at that time.
He was asked about US-Pakistan relations. The host narrated a statement made in the memoirs of former US Secretary for Defense James Mattis, No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy: The Life of General James Mattis, about Pakistan: Of all the countries I dealt with, I consider Pakistan to be the most dangerous because of the radicalisation of society and availability of nuclear weapons.
Responding to the statement, PM Khan said, “I do not think James Mattis fully understands why Pakistan became radicalised. It’s a short history. In the 1980s, when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, Pakistan along with the US organised the resistance to the Soviets. The resistance was organised by Pakistani ISI training these militants who were invited from all over the Muslim world to do Jihad against the Soviet Union. So we created these militant groups.”
Jihad was glorified, he said. “I’ll never forget that Ronald Reagan invited the Mujahideen leaders to the US and said they reminded him of the ‘moral equivalence of the founding fathers of the United States’. So Jihadis were heroes back then.”
“Come 1989, the Soviets leave Afghanistan and the US packs up and leaves Pakistan. We were left with these groups. Then comes 9/11 and Pakistan again joins US in the war against terror and now we are required to after these groups as terrorists. They were indoctrinated that fighting foreign occupation is jihad, but now when the US arrived in Afghanistan it was supposed to be terrorism. So Pakistan took a real battering in this. I have to say, I oppose this,” he said.
Answering a question from the audience on the possibility of any progress to be made on reforming blasphemy laws in Pakistan and the protection of minorities, PM Khan said, “There is only one Islam. There is no such thing as moderate Islam or radical Islam. Islam, like all human communities, has its radicals, majority moderate and some lunatics,” he said.
He said Islam gives complete rights to minorities. “That is the Islam we follow. All human beings are equal,” he said.
The premier said that if Pakistan has not been able to enforce this equality into law, it is because of the ruling elite.
In another question by an audience member about Pakistan’s stance on reports of how China treats its Muslims, PM Khan attempted to detract from the actual question by making a joke on how, with everything on his plate, he could have had a heart attack by now. “Any issues of how China functions is something we talk about privately,” he said.
Prime Minister Imran is on a seven-day visit to the United States to attend the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly opening on September 24.