Islamabad – Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan is batting for the Taliban to develop a consensus that would lead to recognition of the new caretaker government of the “Islamic Emirate” in Afghanistan.
Speaking to CNN, in the first interview with an international news organization since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan last month, Khan said that the best way forward for peace and stability in Afghanistan is to engage with the Taliban and “incentivize” them on issues such as women’s rights and inclusive government.
“The Taliban hold all of Afghanistan and if they can sort of now work towards an inclusive government, get all the factions together, Afghanistan could have peace after 40 years. But if it goes wrong and which is what we are really worried about, it could go to chaos. The biggest humanitarian crisis, a huge refugee problem,” Khan said.
“It’s a mistake to think that someone from outside will give Afghan women rights. Afghan women are strong. Give them time. They will get their rights,” said Khan.
“Women should have the ability in a society to fulfil their potential in life,” said Khan.
Since assuming power, the group has attempted to paint a new picture with promises to uphold human rights, particularly regarding women and girls, and allow journalists to continue with their work.
However, women have been omitted from the Taliban’s hard-line interim government, have been ordered to stay at home in some areas, and their education restricted.
Protests against Taliban rule and for civil rights have been violently suppressed, with reports of journalists being arrested and severely beaten.
Many in the international community are not hopeful the Taliban will make any progress on upholding women’s rights. The Taliban, who ruled over Afghanistan from 1996 until 2001 have historically treated women as second-class citizens, subjecting them to violence, forced marriages and a near-invisible presence in the country, reported CNN.
The group banned women from the workplace, stopped them from leaving the home unaccompanied and forced them to cover their entire bodies.
In recent days the Taliban has mandated the segregation of genders in classrooms and said female students, lecturers and employees must wear hijabs in accordance with the group’s interpretation of Sharia law. And Taliban fighters have used whips and sticks against women protesters, who have taken to the streets in sporadic protests across the country demanding equal rights.
Khan also said that the world should give Taliban ‘time’ on human rights but fears ‘chaos’ without aid, reported CNN.
Khan claimed that the Taliban are looking for international aid to avoid a crisis, which could be used to push the group in “the right direction towards legitimacy.” However, he warned that Afghanistan could not be controlled by outside forces.
“No puppet government in Afghanistan is supported by the people,” he said. “So rather than sitting here and thinking that we can control them, we should incentivize them. Because Afghanistan, this current government, clearly feels that without international aid and help, they will not be able to stop this crisis. So we should push them in the right direction.”
Meanwhile, Khan also commented on the “terrible” relationship with the United States that has been disastrous for Pakistan and how he is now seeking a more pragmatic approach in dealing with Afghanistan’s new leaders.
“We (Pakistan) were like a hired gun,” Khan said. “We were supposed to make them (the US) win the war in Afghanistan, which we never could.”
Khan said he repeatedly warned US officials that America could not achieve its objectives militarily, and would “be stuck there.” He said the US should have attempted a political settlement with the Taliban from a “position of strength,” at the height of its presence in Afghanistan, not as it was withdrawing.
Khan has previously criticized the US’ exit from Afghanistan and said he has not spoken with President Joe Biden since the Taliban takeover, despite Pakistan being a major non-NATO ally.
“I would imagine he’s very busy, but our relationship with the US is not just dependent on a phone call, it needs to be a multidimensional relationship,” said Khan.
On Monday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US would reassess its ties with Pakistan following the withdrawal. He told Congress during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing that Pakistan has a “multiplicity of interests some that are in conflict with ours.”
Khan called such comments “ignorant,” telling CNN that “I have never heard such ignorance.”
According to Khan, thousands of Pakistanis lost their lives in terrorist attacks by militant groups owing to his country’s support for the US. “Just because we sided with the US, we became an ally of the US after 9/11 and the war in Afghanistan. The suffering this country went through with at one point there were 50 militant groups attacking our government… on top of it, they must also know there were 480 drone attacks by the US in Pakistan,” he added.
“Only time a country has been attacked by its ally,” he said of the US strikes.
The US has repeatedly accused Pakistan of harbouring terrorists and given them safe haven, a claim Khan denied.
“What are these safe havens?” Khan asked. “The area of Pakistan along the border of Afghanistan had the heaviest surveillance by the United States drones … surely they would have known if there were any safe havens?”
Khan said he cannot destroy his country to “fight someone else’s war.”