Pakistan’s prime minister urges international community to help Afghanistan achieve peace as he unveils 3-year performance report of incumbent government
Afghans were never going to fight for a Western-backed government because they are a “brave nation” that only fights for its independence, Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Thursday.
Reiterating his claims of Afghans having a particular “psyche” that did not permit them to tolerate foreign influence, he sought to explain his views on why the Taliban had found it so easy to retake control of Afghanistan despite facing a better equipped military force. “We must ponder over this: why did they [Afghans] not fight? The Taliban were only 70,000 strong. The [Afghan National] army was 300,000 in number, equipped with weapons and tanks. Why did they not fight?” he said, as he answered his own question by declaring it was because “no one fights for a corrupt government.”
Stressing that the world should not turn its back on Afghanistan now, he said the time for conflict must end. “The world should try its best to bring peace in Afghanistan. There has been conflict there for 40 years. Their people have faced such hardships,” he said. “It is time now that the world help Afghanistan achieve peace,” he told a ceremony organized at Islamabad’s Convention Center to unveil a report highlighting the accomplishments of the incumbent Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led government in its first three years.
“The Taliban are trying to reach an inclusive political settlement, which we wanted from them in the Doha talks. They are speaking of human rights and have granted a general amnesty, they have vowed they will not allow the use of their soil against any other country, and this is what the world wanted,” he said, adding that the world could not penalize them for what they might do in future.
Three years in power
The PTI on Thursday released a 256-page performance report of the past three years of its tenure in power with a gathering that evoked its political rallies. Featuring short documentaries and musical performances, the ceremony culminated in a speech by the prime minister.
In his address, Khan thanked his supporters as well as his government’s allied parties. He reiterated that his government had inherited several challenges upon assuming power, and claimed that it had overcome them to put the economy on the right track.
Summarizing his rise to the premiership, he recalled that he once used to be mocked for how little support he had among the masses. However, he added, hardships should not be feared. “The ups and downs in life prepare you [for success],” he said, adding that God had already laid out a path for those willing to see it. Addressing the country’s youth directly, he added: “Don’t ever think that life is easy. If it is easy, that means you have no standing.”
Claiming that the tough path was the path to success, he cited Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah as a leader who had struggled. “If there is one leader I believe in, it is him,” he said. “The way he struggled, especially towards the end, during his illness. He did not do it for his personal gain, he did so for a greater purpose. And this is why people will continue to laud him.”
Admitting that the last three years had been “difficult,” he thanked Pakistan’s allies—Saudi Arabia, China and the U.A.E.—for helping manage its economic woes, claiming that without their support the rupee would have declined even further than it had. He also credited his government’s strategy to counter the COVID-19 pandemic as helping save both the economy and lives.
The prime minister especially thanked the Pakistan Army, claiming he had not realized its importance until India targeted Balakot. “And this mafia that gave speeches against our Army … I have also spoken out against the Army in the past … everyone makes mistakes, but the aim is not to malign them,” he claimed. “They are after the Army because they want them to topple the government. You call yourselves a democratic government and seek the removal of a democratic government?” he said. “The Indian lobby is trying its best to malign the Pakistan Army … this has been going on for a while,” he added. The premier, prior to his election, was a frequent and vocal critic of the armed forces, including in appearances on Indian media.
Khan also referred to the 480 drone attacks that struck Pakistan in the past decade, stressing that the heirs of those killed in such strikes would inevitable seek revenge against Pakistan for them. He vowed that Pakistan would never again enter into conflict at the behest of any other country.
The prime minister claimed his government had put the economy on the “right track” despite the coronavirus pandemic and minimal inherited resources. He said Pakistan’s current account deficit had stood at $20 billion when the PTI came into power and had been reduced to $1.8 billion now. Similarly, he said foreign exchange reserves had increased from $16.4 billion to $27 billion; revenue collection from Rs. 3,800 billion to Rs. 4,700 billion, and overseas Pakistanis’ remittances from $19.9 billion to $29.4 billion.
He also reiterated a questionable stance linking higher sales of motorcycles, cars and tractors to individual economic success despite experts saying this is not an accurate barometer in a country where more than half the population falls below the poverty line.
Khan claimed that Pakistan’s industries were thriving after 10 years and boasted a 42 percent growth in sales of cement due to his government’s construction industry incentives.
The prime minister said his government had focused on the uplift of the lower segments of society, citing the Ehsaas Program, as well as the Kamyab Pakistan Program, which aims at providing interest-free loans to four million deserving families. He also cited the Kissan Card for targeted subsidies to farmers, as well as the health card already deployed in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and currently being rolled out in Punjab.
Khan also highlighted his government’s Single National Curriculum—currently only implemented in Punjab—claiming it would soon include teachings on the life of Islam’s Prophet for grades 8, 9 and 10 to encourage “morality” among students.
He also hit out at global concern for women’s rights in Afghanistan under Taliban rule, questioning what external power had ever ensured rights for the citizens of another country. “It is women themselves who have ever secured their own rights. Our women have the power to get their rights. We need only empower them with education,” he said.