The ties between Washington and Islamabad strained, especially after President Donald Trump, while announcing his Afghanistan and South Asia policy in August last year, hit out at Pakistan for providing safe havens to “agents of chaos” that kill Americans in Afghanistan.
In September, the Trump administration cancelled USD 300 million in military aid to Islamabad for not doing enough against terror groups. Last month, Trump said castigated Pakistan once again, saying it was not doing “a damn thing” for America in curbing terrorism.
Prime Minister Khan, in an interview with The Washington Post on Thursday, said: “I would never want to have a relationship where Pakistan is treated like a hired gun given money to fight someone else’s war,” Khan said, referring to the 1980s war against the Soviet Union and the ongoing war on terror.
“It not only cost us human lives, devastation of our tribal areas, but it also cost us our dignity,” he said.
When asked to elaborate on the ideal nature of relationship that he would like to have with Washington, Khan added: “For instance, our relationship with China is not one-dimensional. It’s a trade relationship between two countries. We want a similar relationship with the US.”
The prime minister said Pakistan was not “hedging” towards China, rather it was Washington’s attitude which had brought a change in the bilateral relationship.
The cricketer-turned-politician rejected the notion that he was “anti-US”, saying that disagreeing with Washington’s policies did not make him “anti-American”.
“This is a very imperialistic approach. ‘You’re either with me or against me’,” he said.
When asked if he wanted relations between Pakistan and the US to “warm up”, Khan responded: “Who would not want to be friends with a superpower?”
This week, Khan said President Trump wrote to him, seeking Pakistan’s help in bringing the Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table to end the 17-year-long war in Afghanistan.
Khan, who has long been critical about Pakistan’s role in the war on terror, said his country wants “peace with all”.
“Thank (God that today, the same people who were asking to do more are now asking us to help them in Afghanistan, to establish peace and to negotiate,” he said.
He emphasised that Islamabad did not want the US to leave Afghanistan in a hurry as they did in 1989.
“The last thing we want is to have chaos in Afghanistan. There should be a settlement this time. In 1989, what happened was the Taliban emerged out of the chaos,” he said.
Khan condemned the 2011 covert US operation in Abbottabad that killed Al Qaida chief Osama bin Laden, who was hiding in the Pakistani garrison city.
Khan said it was “humiliating” that the US did not trust Pakistan to kill the most wanted terrorist.
“It was humiliating that we were losing our soldiers and civilians and [suffering terrorist] bomb attacks because we were participating in the US war, and then our ally did not trust us to kill bin Laden,” he regretted and added that the US “should have tipped off Pakistan”.
Khan also dismissed US’ allegations that there were safe havens for terrorists in Pakistan, saying that the security forces had briefed him on the matter and told him that they had asked Washington “time and time again” to point out where the sanctuaries are.
However, he did not discount the possibility of some Afghan Taliban, “maybe 2,000 to 3,000” crossing the border under the guise of refugees and residing in camps.
The prime minister also discussed his recent spat with US President Trump, clarifying that it was not a “Twitter war, it was just setting the record right”.
He said the exchange of words with President Trump on Twitter was “about being blamed for deeply flawed US policies the military approach to Afghanistan.”
The prime minister reiterated his plan to end poverty from Pakistan, with or without the International Monetary Fund’s bailout.
He said Pakistan has received monetary help from Saudi Arabia, China and the United Arab Emirates, but said the latter two countries wanted the figures to remain “confidential”.