Guyon Espiner interviewed Imran Khan, whose party is poised for victory in the Pakistani elections next year. He had stark words on how the Pakistani allegiance with the US during the war in Afghanistan has fueled radicalism and resistance. His message to New Zealand is: your soldiers are only making things worse. Will John Key listen?
GUYON OK, New Zealand has been, in its own small way, involved in this war in Afghanistan for a decade or so itself. When our prime minster talks about why New Zealand is there, John Key says that it’s to stop Afghanistan again being a home for terrorism. What do you say to New Zealand’s prime minister, John Key, in response to that?
MR KHAN The New Zealand prime minister does not understand Afghanistan. If only he had read the history of Afghanistan, even the British – three wars in Afghanistan. The Russians killed a million Afghans – a million out of a population then of 15 million. A million died, and they were fighting more at the end than the beginning. Everyone was fighting. The women were fighting. They do not understand Afghanistan. This is a quagmire. From day one, I’ve opposed it, this insane war, and I can give you in writing that for another 10 years, there will be fighting there, and they will make no headway at all. In fact, they radicalise the people much more.
GUYON So your advice to New Zealand in terms of its involvement in Afghanistan?
MR KHAN That there is no military solution. There’s going to be a political solution. And the longer they keep killing people, and this military, these night raids – remember, most of the people being killed are innocent civilians. They are not fighting an army. They are fighting militants which are being supported by the population. That’s why they’re going to lose the war – because it’s not a question of Taliban; it’s a resistance movement now. And the history tells you, in Afghanistan, whenever an invader comes, they get together and they will resist. They have never accepted outsiders.
GUYON And you write about the new aspect of colonialism, which I guess you see as the United States, and the puppets, as you describe them, in Pakistan’s government, who, in exchange for money, allow their own people to be bombed by America’s drone aircraft. Is that how you see it?
MR KHAN Even worse, it’s probably the only instance in history where a country has bombed its own people by taking money from some other country. I don’t think there’s any precedence for this. So really the ruling elite has made our army a mercenary army to fight its own people, which is what’s basically happened – 140,000 Pakistani soldiers along tribal areas which border Afghanistan, and essentially fighting our own tribesmen. You might call them Taliban, but actually this was a reaction. The moment the Pakistan army went into the tribal areas, there was going to be an uprising. Because in 1948, our first only great leader – he pulled the army out of the tribal areas. We never had any trouble. Tribal areas are semi-autonomous. Only 40 laws of Pakistan apply there. They joined Pakistan through treaty. So Musharraf in 2004 sent the army in, and it took two years of collateral damage, because basically Pakistan army and the drones, they were bombing villages through artillery, the helicopter gunships, F16s – villages – caused massive collateral damage, and that collateral damage created the Pakistani Taliban. We did not have any militant Taliban until 2006.
GUYON When you say that that this is in exchange for money, I guess you’re talking about the billions of dollars, are you, in American aid, which flows into Pakistan and, I guess, supports its military?
MR KHAN Well, put it this way – every month, the Americans give the Pakistani army money, which is called something like imbursement or disimbursement for the action or activities that they’ve done in a month. So we get monthly payment from the Americans, and basically our army is fighting our own people in the tribal areas. And this insanity has caused radicalisation in our society. Every year, violence has grown in Pakistan. A country loses 35,000 people dead, $70 billion lost to the economy – total aid has only been $20 billion since 9/11 – 3.5 million people internally displaced, and then your ally tells you it doesn’t trust you, comes in, violates your sovereignty to take someone out, and then says you’re either complicit or you’re incompetent. I mean, if there was a self-respecting leadership in Pakistan, firstly, it would never had got in to this war. But if after giving these sacrifices… A war we had nothing to do with. No Pakistani was involved in 9/11, Al Qaeda was in Afghanistan, no militant Taliban in Pakistan, so how did we get in to this stage where we have 35,000 people dead?