Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan on Monday in an interview with the Middle East Eye, said, “Money is a big player now,” he said. “For the players, as well as for the cricket boards. The money lies in India, so basically, India controls world cricket now.”
“I mean, they do, whatever they say goes. No one would dare do that to India because they know that the sums involved, India can sort of produce much more money,” PM Khan added.
PM Imran Khan while speaking to David Hearst and Peter Oborne of Middle East Eye, discussed a wide range of topics, including the current situation in Afghanistan, relations with the United States (US), India’s role in occupied Kashmir, allegations against China regarding the treatment of Uighurs, and cricket.
Reconciliation with TTP
PM Imran Khan said Islamabad is trying to speak to elements within the Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) who can be reconciled “because it’s from a position of strength”.
“I always believed all insurgencies eventually end up on the dialogue table, like the IRA [Irish Republican Army] for instance,” he explained.
“We now have to talk to those we can reconcile with [and persuade] to give up their arms and live as normal citizens,” he added.
The prime minister said the Taliban had assured Islamabad that the TTP would not launch attacks into Pakistan. He accused India of instigating terrorism in Pakistan via Afghanistan, during the Ashraf Ghani-led government.
‘International community must engage with Afghanistan’
“The world must engage with Afghanistan,” he said as he warned of the consequences of not doing so. “There must be hardliners within the group [and] it can easily go back to the Taliban of 20 years ago. And that would be a disaster.”
“Yet, the government is clearly trying to get international acceptability so it wants an inclusive government, talks about human rights and not allowing its soil to be used for terrorism by anyone,” he said.
“It would be a total waste, what will the US have to show after 20 years? Therefore, a stable Afghanistan government which can then take on ISIS, and the Taliban are the best bet to take on ISIS, that is the only option left.”
PM Khan said that isolating and imposing sanctions on Afghanistan would result in a massive humanitarian crisis.
“If they are left like this, my worry is that [Afghanistan] could revert back to 1989 when the Soviets and Americans left,” he said, adding that over 200,000 Afghans died in that chaos.
‘Pakistan expected a bloodbath in Afghanistan’
When asked about Pakistan’s point of view after the Taliban takeover, the prime minister said: “We have been so relieved because we expected a bloodbath […] it was a peaceful transfer of power.”
PM Imran added that the US had to “pull itself together” from the shock it had suffered after the withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan.
“I don’t think they have found their feet as yet,” he said, adding that Pakistan would also suffer as a result of chaos in Afghanistan.
Taliban should be incentivised to walk the talk:
Pressed on the lack of inclusiveness in the new government setup, the prime minister acknowledged that it was not present “right now” but hoped it would be in the future, adding that it was needed because Afghanistan was a diverse society.
Similarly, on the issue of women’s rights, he said the Taliban should be incentivised to “walk the talk” — pointing out that the group had said it would allow women to work and get educated.
‘All insurgencies end up on dialogue table’
When asked about the banned TTP posing a problem for the country, the prime minister said, “They called us collaborators, started attacking us and calling themselves the Pakistani Taliban, which we didn’t have before joining the alliance. At one point there were 50 different groups calling themselves the Taliban [and] attacking us.”
“We are no longer collaborators because we are not allying ourselves with anyone fighting the Pakhtuns so the motivation has gone down. Now we are trying to talk to those who can be reconciled because it is from a position of strength. I believe that all insurgencies eventually end up on the dialogue table,” the premier said.
Relations with the US
The prime minister spoke about US President Joe Biden, saying that he is yet to speak to arguably the most powerful person in the world.
When the interviewer told him he found that “absolutely astonishing” that the two heads of state had not yet spoken, PM Khan said: “Well, you know, it’s up to him. It’s [US] a superpower.”
He said he had warned US officials back in 2008 about the futility of a military solution to the Afghan issue and potentially creating a “bigger quagmire than Iraq”.
“Unfortunately, I think they were led by the generals and you know what they always say: give us more troops and time.”
Relation with China
Describing relations between Pakistan and China, PM Imran said the relationship was 70-years-old and had “stood the test of time”. “In all our ups and downs, China has stood with us,” he pointed out.
Asked about his silence on the treatment of Uighurs in China, the premier said that Pakistan had spoken to China about the Uighur issue and had been provided with an explanation. “Our relationship with China is such that we have an understanding between us. We will talk to each other, but behind closed doors because that is their nature and culture.”
Indian role in occupied Kashmir
The premier questioned why there was no criticism of Indian actions in occupied Kashmir or its treatment of Muslims and minorities.
He said the Muslim world was subject to turmoil and that the government wanted to highlight the Kashmir issue and human rights violations in the occupied valley.
“Let the world take notice of that first, then we will talk about other violations of human rights.”
Cancellation of NZ, Eng cricket tours
PM Imran was also asked about his reaction to the decision to cancel the England team’s tour to Pakistan, to which he responded, “I think there is still this feeling in England that they do a great favour by playing for countries like Pakistan.”
The premier said that no one would “dare do that to India” due to the power and financial resources of the Indian cricket board. “I didn’t say anything, but I think England let themselves down because I expected a bit more from them.”
He said that the England and New Zealand cricket teams had let themselves down by cancelling the tours based on “something which we know was fake news initiated by some Indian through Singapore”.