Prime Minister Imran Khan, during an address delivered at the United States Institute of Peace on Tuesday, 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 response to a question regarding what makes things different now in the relationship between the two countries, 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.”
“Now comes 9/11. And the US invades Afghanistan. And now we are trying to tell the same groups, who had close links with the Pakistan Army — because they were created by the Pakistan Army — now we are telling them because the good guys are there, its no longer jihad.”
“Now obviously, a lot of them turned against the Pakistan Army because the Pakistan Army was then trying to neutralise them.”
The premier said that the years that followed were “the worst time in our history”.
“These groups turned against the Pakistan Army and the State of Pakistan. And not only that, there were linkages between these groups and the Pakistan security forces because they had created them.
“We had insider attacks, the GHQ was attacked, the generals were killed, the ISI headquarters were attacked. The Army at one point could not go into the cities in military clothes or with military cars. It was that bad,” said PM Imran, as he asserted his view of why Pakistan should have never gotten involved.
“The second thing was the tribal areas. We should never have sent our Army into the tribal areas.
“The tribal area per capita was the most weaponised area in the world, he said,” pausing to provide a brief history of the region that had been left autonomous post-British era and that had “lived by its own rules”.
“In 2004, under pressure from the US, Pakistan Army went into the tribal areas to flush out Al-Qaeda. What happened was, after Tora Bora in Afghanistan, a few of the Al-Qaeda moved down into our tribal areas which were semi-autonomous. When they sent the Army in […] you know armies are not meant to go into civilian areas.
“Whenever you send your army into civilian areas there will always be human rights abuses because there is no army there, there are just guerillas operating from villages.
“The collateral damage created what became the Pakistani Taliban. There was no Pakistani Taliban [group] before,” he said.
“In my opinion we should have stayed neutral. That way we would have control over these militant groups and we could have, in our own time, neutralised them,” he added, before going on to say: “But because we became a part of the US war, they turned against Pakistan.”
He said that what followed was a watershed moment in Pakistani politics, recounting the 2014 Army Public School massacre in which 150 school children were slaughtered by the TTP — the Pakistani faction of the Taliban.
“There was a reaction within Pakistan. All the political parties signed the NAP (National Action Plan) and we all decided that we will never allow any militant groups to operate within Pakistan.”
The premier said that because there had been such a sizable presence of these groups (estimating them to be around 30,000-strong) that had obtained “training in some theatre — Afghanistan or Kashmir”, there had been a challenge which no one was willing to take previously.
“Prior to our government coming into power, past governments did not have the political will […] we were the first government to start disarming militant groups.
“We have taken over their institutes, their seminaries, we have [placed] administrators there. For the first time we have decided there will be no armed militias inside our country.”__Dawn.com