Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has said if the Taliban took over Afghanistan by force, Pakistan will not take military action against them.
The prime minister said this while speaking to The New York Times via video call about the way forward for Pakistan in light of the US forces leaving Afghanistan by September 11, reported the daily on Friday.
“Let me assure you, we will do everything except use military action against the Taliban,” Khan replied when asked what Pakistan would do if the Taliban took over Afghanistan by force. “I mean, we will do everything up to that. All sections of our society have decided that Pakistan will take no military action.”
“Now, we are fencing it (Pakistan-Afghanistan border), and almost 90 percent of the border, we’ve fenced now,” Khan added. “What if [the] Taliban try to take over Afghanistan through [the] military? Then we will seal the border, because now we can, because we have fenced our border, which was previously [open], because Pakistan does not want to get into, number one, conflict, secondly, we do not want another influx of refugees.”
Asked if Pakistan would recognise the Taliban if they carried out a full military takeover in Afghanistan, Khan said: “Pakistan will only recognise a government which is chosen by the people of Afghanistan, whichever government they choose.”
He said after the US withdrawal, he wished that Pakistan and the US could fix their “lopsided” equation of the past. “What we want in the future is a relationship based on trust and common objectives,” he said. “That’s actually what we have right now with the US.”
Replying to a question related to Pakistan’s future relationship with the US after the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, PM Khan said that Pakistan has always had a closer relationship with the United States than neighbouring India.
“After 9/11, Pakistan again opted to join the US war on terror. Now, after the US leaves Afghanistan, basically Pakistan would want a civilised relationship, which you have between nations, and we would like to improve our trading relationship with the US,” he said.
When asked what he meant by a “civilised” relationship, the premier said that Pakistan expects an “even-handed” relationship which, for instance, the US holds with Britain or India at the moment.
He said that Pakistan and the US share a rather “lopsided” relationship during the war on terror, adding that Pakistan’s participation in the war claimed the lives of 70,000 Pakistanis together with a loss of over $150 billion due to the ensuing bombings and suicide attacks.
“The US kept expecting more from Pakistan. And unfortunately, Pakistani governments tried to deliver what they were not capable of,” he said. “What we want in the future is a relationship based on trust and common objectives. That’s actually what we have right now with the US — I mean, our objectives in Afghanistan are exactly the same today.”
When asked if Pakistan would consider it an Indian win if Kashmir’s status quo remains the same, PM Imran Khan said that it would be a disaster for India. “[That is because] it will just mean that this conflict festers on and on. And so as long as it festers, it’s going to stop there being any relationship — normal relationship — between Pakistan and India.”
The premier was questioned about Pakistan’s relationship with China and how it affects both the US and India. In response, he said that he finds it “very odd” that China and the US would become great rivals. “It makes no sense because the world would really benefit if the two giants, economic giants, really got along and traded with each other. So it would be a benefit for all of us.”