PM Imran Khan says forceful action going on against banned outfits
ISLAMABAD – Pakistan is taking forceful action against banned outfits and such action has never happened in the country, said Prime Minister Imran Khan in an interview with Financial Times.
Although he denied culpability, the 66-year-old Khan, admitted that there was no place for terrorists in his new Pakistan. “We’re already cracking down on them, we’re already dismantling the whole set up,” he said. “What is happening right now has never happened before in Pakistan.”
The PM fears India has been gripped by ‘war hysteria’ that threatens to unleash further hostilities in the run-up to its neighbour’s national elections.
“I’m still apprehensive before the elections, I feel that something could happen,” Mr Khan said in Islamabad in the wake of the most serious conflict between the nuclear-armed countries in decades.
The prime minister promised to resurrect Pakistan’s economy and denied that the country had become a client state of China.
He insisted that Pakistan did not have any links to Jaish-e-Mohammad, the terror group that launched a deadly attack on an Indian paramilitary police convoy in the Kashmir region last month. Instead, Mr Khan cast Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, as the aggressor for launching a subsequent missile strike that brought the two countries close to war.
Pakistan and India narrowly avoided a full-blown conflict following the February 14 suicide bombing that killed more than 40 Indian paramilitary police. New Delhi broke its long-held policy of strategic restraint and launched an air strike inside Pakistani territory. Islamabad responded with air strikes on Indian military installations near the de facto border and shot down an Indian warplane, capturing a pilot.
Islamabad’s decision to release the pilot within days of his capture helped ease tensions.
Since then, Mr Modi has campaigned across the country addressing crowds with militaristic fervour, threatening on Twitter that his ‘new India’ would give ‘a befitting reply to those who disturb the atmosphere of peace’.
Indian television channels have also ratcheted up the nationalist rhetoric, prompting Islamabad to accuse the ruling Bharatiya Janata party of exploiting the conflict to win over voters ahead of polls in April.
“When Pulwama [the suicide attack in Kashmir] happened I felt that Mr Modi’s government used that to build this war hysteria,” said Mr Khan, holding prayer beads in his left hand. “The Indian public should realise that this is all for winning the elections. It’s nothing to do with the real issues of the subcontinent.”
Mr Khan redirected blame for the deadly attack to what he called Mr Modi’s “anti-Muslim” government and its heavy-handed policies in Indian-administered Kashmir, the divided Muslim-majority province that both sides claim as their own.
“There’s Jaish-e-Mohammad in India, the boy who blew himself up, the 19-year-old boy, was a Kashmiri-Indian boy,” said Mr Khan. “His parents said he was radicalised by some abuse by the security force. So it was an Indian boy, Indian operation, Indian car, Indian explosive. Why was Pakistan blamed?”
But Mr Khan acknowledged that Pakistan could no longer allow terror groups to organise with impunity on its soil. “We cannot take the stance any more where you have these armed groups in our country,” he said. “We can’t afford being blamed for any terrorist activity, like Pulwama.”
The prime minister said that Pakistan was “pretty close to an agreement” with the IMF. “I’m determined that this will be the last time Pakistan will ever have to go to the IMF,” Mr Khan added.
Islamabad has been forging ever closer links with Beijing but Mr Khan challenged claims that Pakistan had become a client state of China under the $60bn China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a centrepiece of Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative.
“All I can say is that we are really grateful to the Chinese because this has been extremely helpful to us,” said Mr Khan, dismissing criticism that China’s loans to Pakistan represent ‘debt-trap diplomacy’.