ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan lamented that Western countries, the self-styled champions of human rights, were ignoring the gross breaches of rights and mass atrocities in Indian-occupied Kashmir where “hundred thousand” people have been killed by the Indian security forces.
“This is such a big issue […] why are the people of [occupied] Kashmir ignored,” the prime minister said in an interview with Jonathan Swan for Axios on HBO aired early Monday.
Imran, when pressed for a comment on Uyghurs in Xinjiang Autonomous Region of China, observed that Kashmir was a “much more relevant” dispute where 800,000 Indian personnel had turned the region into an open-air prison for its nine million population.
“Why is this [Kashmir] not an issue?” he said, deploring the “hypocrisy” of the Western societies that have turned a blind eye to Indian treatment of the Muslim people of held Kashmir.
He further said that once the Kashmir dispute is resolved, there will no longer be any need for Pakistan to employ the threat of nuclear deterrents.
“Intelligence analysts say Pakistan has the fastest-growing nuclear arsenal anywhere in the world. Why?” Swan questioned.
“I don’t know where they’ve come up with this. Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is simply a deterrent, to protect ourselves,” he said.
He further said he was “not sure” if the arsenal was in fact growing. “As far as I know, it’s not an offensive thing. Any country which has a [hostile] neighbour seven times its size would be worried [for its security].”
On Islamophobia, the prime minister said a “big communication gap” persisted between the Islamic world and the West, terming it the main reason behind the rising tide of Islamophobic incidents in those societies.
He said after the 9/11 attacks, the term “Islamic terrorism” came into currency, misleading the “man in the street” in the West into believing that Islam as a religion promotes terrorist activities.
He pointed out that with the involvement of few individuals involved in militant activities in the name of Islam, the entire 1.3 billion-strong community became the target.
When asked about “doing vastly better than the United States” on Covid-19, Imran said targetted restrictions coupled with comprehensive data analysis helped his government keep the outbreak in control.
“Partial lockdown coupled with comprehensive data analysis helped us keep pandemic in control,”
— Prime Minister’s Office, Pakistan (@PakPMO) June 20, 2021
The smart quarantines were the “best decision” to cope with the situation, he recalled.
He further recalled that with people in Spain and Italy ending up in hospitals, as the pandemic raged through Europe, politicians from the Opposition demanded sweeping lockdowns.
However, the prime minister said, his government in Pakistan opted for smart restrictions so as to keep the economy afloat and keep the poor from struggling.
He told Swan that the working of the National Command and Operation Centre with daily data monitoring and input by provinces, army deployments, doctors and healthcare specialists helped the government arrest the spike in new daily infections.
Talking about the recent visit of Central Intelligence Agency chief William Burns, the prime minister said that since 9/11, the intelligence agencies of the two countries have been in “constant touch”.
He also confirmed the reports of a denied meeting with the Burns.
“Would you allow the American government to have CIA here in Pakistan to conduct cross-border counterterrorism missions against Al-Qaeda, ISIS or the Taliban?” asked Swan.
He responded that his government would “absolutely not” offer any military bases to the United States, ruling out the use of Pakistan’s soil for cross-border operations inside Afghanistan.
“Absolutely not. There is no way we are going to allow any bases, any sort of action from Pakistani territory into Afghanistan. Absolutely not.”
In a story earlier this month, the New York Times reported that Central Intelligence Agency chief William Burns visited Islamabad last month where he met Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and the Inter-Services Intelligence Director General Lt Gen Faiz Hameed.
During the visit, Burns had requested an audience with the prime minister but was refused. Reports citing insiders said the Prime Minister’s Office informed the spy chief that he will only talk to his counterpart, US President Joe Biden.
Asked if he was “happy” about the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, Imran said: “Happy in one way because there was never gonna be a military solution in Afghanistan.”
He went on to say that there were also feelings of anxiousness. “Without a political settlement, there is possibility of a civil war [inside Afghanistan].”
He said that in his view, a political settlement would mean a coalition government between the Taliban and the Afghan leadership. “There is no other solution,” he observed.
When asked whether the US had made a mistake by announcing the date of the withdrawal, the prime minister said: “They have got themselves in such a big mess. They had to give some sort of timeframe.”
“But the moment they gave a timeframe, the Taliban would have considered that a victory.”