Pakistan has played an important role in defusing tensions between arch-foes Saudi Arabia and Iran, Prime Minister Imran Khan has told Al Jazeera in an exclusive interview, saying his country prevented a military escalation from taking place in the volatile region.
Acknowledging that in Pakistan’s history, civilian and military leaderships have had a ‘chequered relationship’ Prime Minister Imran Khan said his government had an excellent relationship with the armed forces.
PM Imran said that “the military stands with us” and that “we have an excellent relationship”.
“I honestly think it’s the most harmonious relationship, we have complete coordination, we work together, the military completely stands with all the government’s democratic policies,” he said, adding that the armed forces and the civilian government were on the same page whether it came to the India policy or peace in Afghanistan.
Speaking about the Afghanistan war, he said the 19 years of war had created such “divisions in society” that it was not possible for everyone to get together for peace all of a sudden.
However, he acknowledged that progress had been made in the peace talks. “This is the nearest we have got to peace in Afghanistan and a political solution,” he said.
“Whatever the Afghans think is good for them, is good for us,” he said, adding that Pakistan had done whatever it could to get the Afghan government and the Taliban on the table for talks.
He acknowledged that there were ‘spoilers’ in the peace process and said that India was not in favour of peace in the war-torn country.
In response to a question about freedom of the press and expression in Pakistan, PM Imran said that that “blatant propaganda” had taken place against his government.
He said that India was not a stakeholder in the Afghanistan peace process as it did not have a border with Afghanistan whereas Pakistan did.
“Instability there creates instability in the border regions what were former tribal areas of Pakistan and that creates a problem for the whole country,” he said.
Speaking on the India-Pakistan relations, PM Imran said that when he became the country’s prime minister, he extended ” a hand of friendship towards India”.
“The tragedy of India is that it is being ruled by an extremist,” said PM Imran. “It is an extremist government. It is a Hindu supremacist government inspired by the ideology of the Nazis,” he added.
He recalled how the RSS had been thrice banned in India, lamenting that the proponents of such an extremist organisation was in control of a nuclear-armed country of more than a billion people.
In response to a question about whether he thinks Western countries abandoned Pakistan on the issue of occupied Kashmir, PM Imran said that many countries unfortunately kept their commercial interests in mind.
He said that the world looks upon India as a “huge market” hence it was ignoring such a huge travesty of justice in Kashmir.
“It doesn’t mean that we are sitting down and accepting this. We will keep trying,” he said.
Answering a question about Pakistan’s relations with Saudi Arabia, he said that the kingdom will “always be a friend of Pakistan” however, admitting that Islamabad wanted the OIC to take a front-role when it came to the issue of occupied Kashmir.
Reacting to the recent normalisation of ties between Israel and the UAE, PM Imran categorically said that “any one-sided solution” will not work. “Israel must realise this, if they do not allow the Palestinians to have a just settlement, a viable state, this issue’s not going to die down. Even if some countries recognise Israel, it’s not going to die down,” he added.
When asked whether Islamabad with renegotiating its terms of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) with Beijing, PM Imran rejected the notion, adding that Pakistan’s relationship with its ally was better than ever.
“Pakistan’s economic future is linked to China,” he said. “China is growing at a faster pace than any other country and Pakistan, you know, can really benefit from the way China has developed,” he added.
When asked if Pakistan was resetting its ties with the United States, PM Imran wondered why it has to be an “either, or” formula. “Why does Pakistan have to be in any camp?” he asked. “Every country looks to its own interest. Why can’t we have good relations with everyone,” PM Imran wondered, adding that Islamabad and Washington enjoyed good relations as both were “partners for peace in Afghanistan”.
Rejecting the notion that he had a “small window” to deliver on his promises that he made to voters, PM Imran said that Pakistan no longer made policies for the poor.
“Our construction policy, the education policy and our economic policies are all aimed at getting the poor out of poverty,” he said, highlighting his government’s healthcare insurance initiative in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and its aim to introduce a uniform education syllabus across the country as major changes.