Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has called on the United States to find a political settlement to its war in Afghanistan before withdrawing from the country, as he ruled out hosting any US military bases to be used against other countries.
Khan was speaking in an interview to US news platform Axios that was aired late on Sunday.
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“The Americans, before they leave, there must be a settlement,” he said, referring to a September 11 deadline set by the US government for its troops to withdraw from Pakistan’s northwestern neighbour.
“A political settlement in Afghanistan would mean a sort of coalition government. A government from the Taliban side and the other side. There is no other solution.”
The US withdrawal is part of a 2020 peace agreement between the US and the Taliban, which continues to fight Afghan government forces across the country.
As violence surges across the war-torn country, US President Joe Biden is due to meet Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and peace chief Abdullah Abdullah on Friday to discuss the situation.
In the interview on Sunday, Khan said he feared that a “civil war” could follow the planned US troop withdrawal.
“In case the Taliban go for an all-out victory, there is going to be an incredible amount of bloodshed and, let me tell you, the country that is going to suffer the most after Afghanistan is going to be Pakistan,” he said.
Khan also ruled out the possibility of Pakistan allowing its territory to be used for US military bases that could support Afghan forces.
“There is no way we are going to allow any bases, any sort of action from Pakistani territory into Afghanistan,” he said. “Absolutely not.”
“We will be partners in peace, not in conflict,” he said.
Under the Obama administration’s ramped-up drone war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Pakistan had secretly allowed the US to operate drones both over Pakistani territory and from at least one base in the southwest of the country.
In 2011, leaked US diplomatic cables showed that Pakistan had provided tacit approval for the use of US drone attacks on Pakistani soil, even while publicly condemning them.
On Kashmir, Uighurs and women
In his wide-ranging interview on Sunday, Pakistani PM Khan also repeated his call for the US to mediate between India and Pakistan, both countries that are nuclear-armed, in the Kashmir dispute.
“If the Americans have the resolve, the will, this can be sorted out,” he said.
Responding to a question, Khan said he was “completely against” nuclear arms, and that Pakistan’s nuclear doctrine was “simply as a deterrent, to protect ourselves”.
.@jonathanvswan presses Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on why he’s outspoken against Islamophobia in the West but silent about the genocide of Muslim Uyghurs in western China.
Khan: I concentrate on what is happening on my border.
— Axios (@axios) June 20, 2021
Khan, who has championed the cause of fighting Islamophobia in the West, was also asked why he has not spoken publicly regarding alleged human rights abuses against ethnic Uighurs, a Muslim-majority population, in China.
Khan repeated Pakistan’s stance that its discussions with China, a close strategic ally that has invested heavily in the South Asian country, on these issues remain “behind closed doors”.
Asked to clarify earlier comments on his views on how and why sexual violence occurs, Khan said he believed that “temptation” plays a role in causing sexual violence against women in Pakistan.
“If a woman is wearing very few clothes, it will have an impact on the men, unless they are robots,” he said while outlining what his government is doing to fight against such violence.