In interview with American broadcaster, premier claims Pakistan’s society gives more respect and dignity to women than the rest of the world
As far as Pakistan is concerned, it has done what it can to facilitate the Afghanistan Peace Process, Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Wednesday, adding that “we can only pray” that the people of the war-torn state can decide what government they want.
“Absolutely, there’s nothing more we can do, except push them as much as we can for a political settlement,” he told journalist Judy Woodruff of PBS’ News Hour program to a question on whether Islamabad was prepared to accept the Taliban assuming control of Afghanistan. Stressing that there was no “military solution” to the conflict, Khan said the U.S. had erred in its handling of the Afghan war.
“I think the U.S. has really messed it up in Afghanistan,” he said, reiterating that they tried to find a military solution, with people like him being branded “Taliban Khan” over such views. “I don’t know what the objective was in Afghanistan, whether it was to have some nation-building or democracy or liberate the women. Whatever the cause was, the way they went about it was never going to be the solution,” he said, adding that unfortunately the U.S. had lost its bargaining power by seeking a negotiated settlement after the bulk of NATO troops had been withdrawn from the region.
“Once they [U.S.] had reduced the troops to barely 10,000, and then, when they gave an exit date, the Taliban thought they had won. And so, therefore, it was very difficult for now to get them to compromise. It’s very difficult to force them into a political solution, because they think that they won,” he said.
Reiterating that the only possible solution was an “inclusive” government that included the Taliban, he said the “worst-case scenario” in Pakistan’s view was a protracted civil war in the neighboring state that would lead to an influx of refugees. “Already, Pakistan is hosting over three million Afghan refugees. And what we fear is that a protracted civil war would [bring] more refugees. And our economic situation is not such that we can have another influx,” he said, adding that there was also a risk of ethnic Pashtuns in Pakistan being drawn into any conflict across the border.
The “best outcome,” he said, was an inclusive government. “There is no other outcome, because the military solution has failed,” he added.
Addressing U.S. claims of Pakistan helping the Afghan Taliban financially, Khan claimed this was an “extremely unfair” view. Stressing that Pakistan had nothing to do with the events of 9/11, he said that Islamabad had suffered 70,000 casualties due to its role in the U.S.’ war on terror and lost over $150 billion to the economy. He also rubbished claims of Pakistani fighters crossing over into Afghanistan to aid the Taliban’s fight against Kabul. “How can you call them sanctuaries?” he added.
On what kind of relationship Khan envisaged between Pakistan and the U.S. going forward, he said that Islamabad did not wish to be part of any future conflict. “We want to be partners in peace, but not in conflict,” he stressed, lamenting that the “last relationship” had been transactional.
“Pakistan was more like a hired gun. The U.S. says that we paid you, we gave you aid, and that’s why you were fighting this so-called war on terror,” he said, regretting that the funds received were “minuscule compared to the amount of money we lost in the economy.” The current Pakistani position, he said, was clear. “What the U.S. wants [now] is U.S. bases in Pakistan if there’s civil war in Afghanistan. But if there’s civil war in Afghanistan, we will immediately get stuck into it. There will be terrorism within Pakistan. We do not want—apart from anything else, our country cannot afford it,” he said. “We have just recovered from a desperate economic situation. And we do not want to go through it again.”
To a question on whether Khan expected that if the Taliban succeeded in taking over Afghanistan, Pakistan would be left with a neighboring state that would restrict women’s education and be in effect “run by a group of terrorists,” the prime minister asked “what are we supposed to do about it?” and reiterated that an inclusive settlement was the only solution.
The interview concluded with Woodruff seeking clarity on earlier interviews of Khan’s in which he had been criticized for appearing to suggest he linked women’s clothing to a rise in rape cases across Pakistan. “Anyone who commits rape, solely and solely, that person is responsible. So let’s be clear about that,” he said. “No matter whatever—how much ever a woman is provocative or whatever she wears, the person who commits rape, he is fully responsible. Never is the victim responsible,” he said, adding that his earlier comments had been taken out of context.
“They [comments] were simply talking about Pakistan society, where we are having a rise, a sharp rise in sex crimes. And sex crime does not include just women. More than rape are child abuse, which is going through the roof,” he said, explaining that his use of the word ‘purdah’ referred to bringing “temptation down in a society.”
He added: “Never would I say such a stupid thing where a person who’s raped is responsible for [it] somehow—it’s always the rapist that is responsible.”
To another question on whether Khan believed Pakistan being an Islamic country complicated his ability to take a “stronger stand against violence against women,” the prime minister said, “Absolutely not.”
Stressing that Islam gives “dignity, respect to women,” he claimed that he had found that “in Muslim countries,” women are treated with “far more” respect and given more dignity. “You have odd cases everywhere in the world, but you look at the situation in Pakistan even now, I mean, look at the rape cases here. Compare it to Western countries. They are minuscule compared to them,” he said.
“Yes, we have our issues. We have some cultural problems. Every nation has that. But that comes with cultural evolution, with education. But, as far as a woman’s dignity goes, respect, I can say, after going all over the world, this society gives more respect and dignity to women,” he added.