Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that once the Kashmir issue is resolved, there will no longer be any need for nuclear deterrents.
He said this while speaking to journalist Jonathan Swan on Axios on HBO. “Intelligence analysts say Pakistan has the fastest growing nuclear arsenal anywhere in the world. Why?” the interviewer 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, adding that he was “not sure” whether it was growing. “As far as I know, it’s not an offensive thing. Any country which has a neighbour seven times its size would be worried.”
He went on to say that he was “completely against nuclear arms”. “I always have been. We’ve had three wars against India and ever since we have had a nuclear deterrent, there has been no war between the two countries. We’ve had border skirmishes but we’ve never faced war.
“The moment there is a settlement on Kashmir, the two neighbor’s would live as civilized people. We will not need to have nuclear deterrents.”
Asked why he was so outspoken about Islamophobia in the West but silent about the genocide of Uighur Muslims in China, he said that all issues were discussed with China “behind closed doors”.
“China has been one of the greatest friends to us in our most difficult times. When we were really struggling, China came to our rescue. We respect the way they are and whatever issues we have, we speak behind closed doors.
“I look around the world what’s happening in Palestine, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Afghanistan. Am I going to start talking about everything? I concentrate on what is happening on my border, in my country.”
He questioned why this was such a big issue in the Western world when the people of occupied Kashmir were being ignored. “It is much more relevant. Compared to what may be going on with the Uighurs, 100,000 Kashmiris have been killed,” he said, adding that the occupied valley had been turned into an “open prison”.
“Why is that not an issue?” he asked, adding that he considered it to be “hypocrisy”.
He said that he was concentrating on the things that concerned the country and its borders. “One hundred thousand Kashmiris dying, that concerns me more because half of Kashmir is in Pakistan,” he said.
Talking about the open letter he had written to leaders of Muslims states calling on them to unite against Islamphobia, PM Imran said: “There is a big communication gap between the Islamic world and Western societies. It happened after 9/11 when the world ‘Islamic’ terrorism came into currency.”
The moment you say Islamic terrorism, the common man in the West thinks there is something within the religion which leads to terrorism, he said. After 9/11 any time there was a terrorist act where a Muslim was involved, 1.3 billion Muslims across the world started becoming targets, he said.
US withdrawal from Afghanistan
Asked whether he was “happy” about the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, the premier said: “Happy in one way because there was never gonna be a military solution in Afghanistan.”
He went to say that there were also feelings of anxiousness. “Without a political settlement there is possibility of a civil war.”
He stated that in his view, a political settlement would mean a coalition government between the Taliban and the Afghan leadership. “There is no other solution.”
Asked whether the US had made a mistake by announcing the date of the withdrawal, PM Imran 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.”
He went on to say that as far as Pakistan is concerned, it would deal with whoever represented the people of Afghanistan.
“Does it not concern you that this group of people [Taliban] is accumulating power right next to you?” asked Swan.
“Look, I’m not a spokesman for Taliban. For me to say what they [should] be doing, shouldn’t be doing is pointless. In case Taliban go for an all out victory, there is going to be an incredible amount of bloodshed and the country that will suffer the most after Afghanistan, is going to be Pakistan,” he said, adding that Pakistan was housing three million Afghan refugees.
There must be a political settlement before the Americans leave, he said.
Relationship with the US
Talking about the recent visit of CIA Director William Burns, the prime minister said that since 9/11 the intelligence agencies of the two countries have been in “constant touch”. However, he denied meeting the CIA chief.
“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.
“Absolutely not. There is no way we are going to allow any bases, any sort of action from Pakistani territory into Afghanistan. Absolutely not,” he replied.
“Pakistan suffered 70,000 casualties, more than any other country by joining the American war. We cannot afford anymore military actions from our territory. We will be partners in peace, not in conflict.”
Asked whether Pakistan would allow the US Air Force to use its airspace for air strikes against the Taliban, the premier reiterated that Pakistan “would not be a part of any conflict”.
When pushed for an answered, he replied that it had not been discussed. “Why would the Americans bomb Afghanistan when it hasn’t worked for 20 years?”
Asked whether he had spoken to US President Joe Biden since the Democrat assumed office, he simply said: “No I haven’t.”
“Is there a reason for that?” asked Swan. “Whenever he has time he can speak to me. At the moment, clearly, he has other priorities,” replied PM Imran.
When the interviewer asked what he would discuss with Biden, he said that the US had a big responsibility when it came to occupied Kashmir. “If the Americans have the resolve and the will, [the Kashmir issue] can be sorted out.”
Sexual violence in Pakistan
Asked to respond to his comments linking the incidence of rape to obscenity, the premier said: “It is such nonsense. I never said that […] I said the concept of purdah which is to avoid temptation in society.”
He said that Pakistan had a completely different society and way of life. “If you raise temptation within society and all these young guys have nowhere to go, it has consequences.”
“Do you think that what women wear has any effect, that it is part of this temptation?” Swan asked.
“If a woman is wearing very few clothes, it will have an impact on men unless they are robots. I mean it’s common sense,” he said. If you have a society where people haven’t seen that sort of thing it will have an impact on them, he said.
When the interviewer brought up his past as an international cricket star, PM Imran said: “This is not about me. It’s about my society. My priority is how my society behaves […] so when I see sex crime going through the roof we sit down and discuss how to tackle it. It is having an impact in my society.”