ISLAMABAD (AP) — Cricket legend and potential Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan on Monday criticized the United States’ new strategy for Afghanistan and said that the US should negotiate with the Taliban instead of aiming to destroy it.
“More fighting and bloodshed is not the answer,” Khan said in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press, “I said it 17 years ago and I am still saying this now,”
Khan, who is considered a likely contender for premier after next year’s parliamentary elections, rejected U.S. President Donald Trump’s allegation that his country harbors extremists. He said Pakistanis “felt hurt” when Trump blamed Pakistan for sheltering militants while unveiling the U.S. strategy for Afghanistan in August.
Khan noted that the Taliban have safe havens in Afghanistan and that Pakistan is being subjected the group’s attacks launched from Afghan soil.
U.S. officials have long said that Pakistan turns a blind eye to militants operating along the porous Afghan border.
He said it was unfair to blame Pakistan Washington not defeating the Taliban.
“I think Donald Trump’s policy is deeply flawed,” he said, rejecting the U.S.’s demand that Pakistan do more to combat the extremists.
“I think Pakistan has done enough. I think now the others players involved need to do more,” Khan said.
Khan voiced his opposition to the U.S.’s drone strikes on Pakistan, which he said were carried out “with the complicity of the government of Pakistan.”
He said that if he comes to power, he would “clearly tell the United States that this is not a way to win the war on terror,” and that the drone strikes were “actually flaming anti-American feelings in Pakistan.”
“Drone attacks lead to collateral damage. If (they) were such a successful strategy, they would be winning the war,” Khan said.
Khan added that militants often retaliate after drone strikes by targeting civilians and security forces in Pakistan.
Khan went on to criticize India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the strained relations between Islamabad and New Delhi, saying Modi had not “risen above his communal thinking.”
His comments came following recent skirmishes between Pakistani and Indian forces along the disputed region of Kashmir, which is divided between them and claimed by both. Khan called for an early solution to the Kashmir issue, over which Pakistan and India have fought two of their three wars after gaining independence from Britain in 1947.
Khan also dismissed western “propaganda” that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal could fall into the hands of militants.
He said Pakistan’s army was properly safeguarding the country’s nuclear arsenals.
Discussing the country’s current climate, Khan said he believed ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif had no future in the country’s politics.
Sharif resigned recently when Pakistan’s Supreme Court acting on a petition from Khan disqualified him over allegations of corruption.
Khan said he would not pardon any corrupt figures if his countrymen voted him to power in the 2018 elections.