LAHORE/ISLAMABAD – Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday said that Pakistan enjoyed good relationship with both China and the United States without siding with any particular “camp”. “Pakistan does not have to be in any camp. Why can’t we have good relationship with everyone?” the Prime Minister asked in an interview with Aljazeera television, aired on Thursday.
The interview with senior correspondent Hashem Ahelbarra at ‘Talk to Aljazeera’ programme gave an insight into PM Imran Khan’s views on his first two years in office, fight against corruption, coping with geopolitical changes, economy, media freedom and the country’s response to coronavirus pandemic.
The prime minister said every country looked to its own interests and for Pakistan, “Our future is now linked to China, progressing at faster pace than any other country in the world”. He dismissed any renegotiation with China over amending the terms of $62 billion Economic Corridor, saying that “the relationship with China was better than even before”.
Imran Khan said Pakistan would like to benefit from the way China made progress and lifted its people out of poverty. Asked if Pakistan considered ‘resetting’ ties with the US being critical of CPEC, he said, “We probably have the best relationship with US right now as compared to a few years ago, because in Afghanistan, we are ‘partners with peace’.”
Prime Minister Imran Khan also warned the world of serious implications of breakout of any conflict between Pakistan and India over the disputed region of Kashmir. He said Pakistan has raised the lingering dispute at all the forums and it will continue doing so.
He said the world is not responding on the issue as unfortunately they are willing to ignore the huge travesty of justice for their commercial interests with India. He said it does not mean we sit down quietly and accept the injustice. He expressed the strong commitment to continue to draw the world attention towards the dispute.
Saudi Arabia will always remain friend of Pakistan
Imran Khan said eight million people in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir are in an open prison and eight hundred thousand troops are oppressing them.
Responding to a question, the Prime Minister said Saudi Arabia will always remain friend of Pakistan. However, Pakistan wants the OIC to play a bigger role on Kashmir dispute. Imran Khan said he never believes in any military solutions. He said this is the reason he extended a hand of friendship to India after assuming the power. He said the tragedy of India is that it is being ruled by an extremist government inspired by the ideology of Nazis.
When asked about the Afghan peace process, the Prime Minister warned against the spoilers. He said there is one country India which does not want to see peace in Afghanistan. Imran Khan said Pakistan has tried its best to get the Taliban and the Afghan government on the table of negotiations.
He said we have reached close to peace and political reconciliation. This is a miracle that this is happening in Afghanistan and we pray this happens. He said Pakistan has a stake in a peaceful Afghanistan. Whatever the Afghans think good for them is good for us.
When asked about normalization of relations between the UAE and Israel, the Prime Minister said if Palestinians are not allowed to have a just and viable state, the issue will not die down even some countries recognize Israel. He said the issue will keep festering.
Turning to the domestic situation, the Prime Minister said Pakistan has been put on the right direction over the last two years. He said we have introduced economic reforms and facilitated the businesses. Imran Khan said Pakistan is a country with tremendous potential. He said new changes are taking place in Pakistan. Our whole policies are aimed at lifting the people out of poverty.
Regarding Covid-19 situation, the Prime Minister said Pakistan made probably the best but difficult decision of not imposing the complete lockdown. We went for a smart lockdown to control the pandemic and protect the vulnerable segments of the society from its impacts.
Reaffirming the government’s stance against corruption, Imran Khan said this is the first time that the powerful are being held accountable. The Prime Minister said both the civilian government and the military have the most harmonious relationship. He said we are working in complete coordination and cooperation. He said the military is standing together with the government’s policies related to India or Afghanistan
To a question on success against corruption, the Prime Minister said presently, there was “no mega corruption case in Pakistan after it was controlled by the government at top tier”. However, he admitted that corruption prevailed at lower levels requiring a struggle and lots of steps to counter.
On freedom of media, he rejected the impression of any clampdown or intimidation of journalists, saying that his government was the one that received open and strong criticism from media, even in a propaganda manner. “Unfortunately, it is us, the government and the ministers, who feel unprotected, it’s not the media,” he said, adding that “If someone publishes a fake news against a prime minister, who then takes him to the court, is that intimidation?
Imran Khan said spending 20 years in England, he was aware that if similar happened to the British prime minister, the media would have been sued by millions for libel. On issue of Palestine, the Prime Minister said, “Israel must recognise a just settlement for a viable state for Palestinians.”
Asked about the recent growing ties between the United Arab Emirates and Israel, he said “the issue was not going to die down even if some countries recognized Israel.” It (issue) will just keep festering and it is in Israel’s interest to ensure a just settlement, he said.
The governments in past had “chequered and uneasy relationships” with army, however, “We have an excellent relationship. I honestly think it is the most harmonious relationship,” he said.
“The difference between the Pakistan of now and before is that our main concentration is people-centric policies to ensure better justice, education and health systems,” he said. He mentioned that for the first time, health insurance was announced for poor and a uniform education syllabus would also be launched by next year. “We are changing the way Pakistan will emerge and grow,” he said.
Asked if delivered his promises of economic turn-around, Khan recalled that his government inherited huge deficit, both external and internal, besides serious problems of power sector.
“No country can immediately snap fingers to get reforms get implemented at once. It’s a struggle. Moving the economy and its reformation is not an overnight thing,” he said. He said Pakistan was moving in right way with introduction of ease of doing businesses, however pointed that mindset of ‘incentive structure’ needed to be changed.