Interview with Pakistani politician Imran Khan: "Moving towards democracy"

Following the forced resignation of Pakistan′s premier, Nawaz Sharif, the country′s opposition is sensing a change in direction. Imran Khan, its most prominent representative, met Shah Meer Baloch in Islamabad to talk about current developments

By Shah Meer Baloch

The West is worried about the future of democracy in Pakistan following Nawaz Sharif's disqualification from premiership. European countries consider it a derailment of democracy in the South Asian nation. Are their fears about the future of Pakistani democracy justified?

Imran Khan: I would say they are completely unjustified: Pakistan is moving towards democracy. The pillars of democracy are transparency, accountability of leadership, free and fair elections, independent media and an independent judiciary. These are aspects that are currently being strengthened in Pakistan. To date, Pakistan has been a kleptocracy, not a democracy. But things are getting better.

For the first time in the history of Pakistan, a sitting prime minister has been ousted for money laundering, corruption and forgery. There′s no doubt that some people make their way into the corridors of power merely to make money. In the past, whenever the army stepped in to take control of the country, the people rejoiced. This time, however, the army has kept out of it.

In my opinion, the Supreme Court's judgement against Nawaz Sharif will serve to strengthen democracy. Whoever comes to power now is likely to think twice before indulging in corruption.

Pakistan's liberal circles and many political commentators in the West, have dubbed PM Sharif's dismissal a "judicial coup". They also say that you and your Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Party were used by the country's powerful military to oust Sharif. What do you have to say about these claims?

Khan: That′s a joke. I can′t imagine anyone calling themselves a liberal being prepared to come out with such a stupid statement. Firstly, the army chief was personally appointed by Sharif and Sharif also welcomed the appointment of the chief justice of Pakistan just last December. Why would these two have bandied together to topple the prime minister?

Even the prime minister of the UK was called to account by the British parliament when his name appeared in the Panama leaks. We, Pakistan's opposition parties, similarly asked Sharif to provide an explanation regarding his offshore sources of income, which included luxury properties in London.

How, for instance, did he get the money out of the country? He has not answered the questions posed by the two benches of the Supreme Court. Not has Sharif been able to explain the source of income to the Joint Investigation Committee (JIT), formed by the Supreme Court to investigate the issue.

He failed and he lied to the court about his income. He produced fake documents; how, therefore, can anyone be calling it a judicial coup?

In fact, it's the first time that the army′s chief of staff has publically declared that the army is in support of Pakistani democracy and the constitution. These analysts are merely repeating the propaganda spread by Nawaz Sharif as the corruption came to light.

If elected as prime minister of Pakistan, what kind of ties do you want to have with the West – the U.S. and the EU?

Khan: Pakistan needs to maintain good relationships with its neighbours – Iran, Afghanistan, India and China – and pursue a policy of rapprochement with the West. We want good relations with China, because Pakistan's prosperity depends on China.

Beijing is pumping billions of dollars into our country through its China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project. The U.S. and the EU are undeniably two of Pakistan's major trading partners – friendly relations with them are essential.

Taliban attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, 01.03.2017 (photo: Reuters/Mohammed Ismail)
Taliban on the offensive: despite millions of U.S. dollars being invested in its military, the government in Kabul along with the U.S. and other allies, still have not managed to defeat the Taliban. In recent months, the Islamists have once again managed to take control of large swathes of Afghanistan. Just another reason why even the U.S. now seems prepared to consider negotiations

You want negotiations with the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan and many people criticise you for advocating talks. You also refuse to condemn jihadist groups over terror attacks and blame it on the U.S. intervention in Afghanistan. Do you really believe that the Pakistani military establishment has no involvement in Islamist groups in Afghanistan and Kashmir?

Khan: These are merely allegations by those who don't understand jihadist movements and the Talibavn, or what is happening in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The military solution has failed. The U.S. also wants to negotiate with the Taliban, since its military offensive in Afghanistan has failed to bring about the desired results. The U.S. has spent trillions of dollars on the war to no avail.

As I am sure you are aware, these jihadist organisations were created by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency to fight the Soviet invasion. When the Soviet Union disintegrated and the U.S. went away, then Pakistan was left to deal with the jihadist groups on its own.

After the 9/11 attacks in the U.S., Washington began going after the jihadist outfits, labelling them as terrorists – yet these were the same people it had once celebrated as heroes. Pakistan also became a front-line state in the war on terror. Pakistan has suffered a lot; we have lost 70,000 people in this war, which we had nothing to do with. In my opinion, we should stay out of the war.

Last but not least, what kind of relationship do you foresee with India? Experts say that any attempt by a Pakistani premier to have good relations with India draws the ire of the military.

Khan: That is simply propaganda. It might have been true in the past, but now there is consensus among Pakistani political parties and people that there should be peace with India. Everyone knows that India is being ruled by a Hindu nationalist, Narendra Modi. His only agenda is to isolate Pakistan. We can't make peace that way.

When anything happens in India, Modi is quick to point the finger at Pakistan. He′s more interested in derailing the peace process, than seeing it through. He also blames Pakistan for fomenting terrorism in Kashmir, but that's not true either. It is the Modi regime that has been using brute force on an indigenous movement.

Narendra Modi is nothing like the former Indian PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Despite both coming from the same right-wing political outfit, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Vajpayee premiership clearly supported peace between the two countries.

Interview conducted by Shah Meer Baloch

© Deutsche Welle 2017