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Taliban are normal civilians, how is Pakistan supposed to hunt them down, asks PM Imran Khan

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that the Taliban were not some military outfit but “normal civilians”. In an interview with PBS News Hour, Imran Khan also asked how Pakistan was supposed to hunt them down when the country had nearly three million Afghan refugees at its borders.

“Why don’t they give us evidence of this? When they say that Pakistan gave safe havens, sanctuaries to Taliban, where are these safe havens? There are three million Afghan refugees in Pakistan. And Taliban are not some military outfit. They are normal civilians. And if there are some civilians in these camps, how is Pakistan supposed to hunt these people down? How can you call them sanctuaries?” said Khan.

Terming the allegations that Pakistan has aided Taliban financially and provided them with weapons and intelligence as “extremely unfair”, he has demanded evidence from detractors to back these claims.

Imran Khan asserted that not only had the Pakistani government joined the United States’ war on terror after 9/11 and endured untold losses because of it, they have also provided shelter to thousands of Afghan refugees over the years.

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Instead, the Pakistan prime minister put the blame squarely on the US and said the country “really messed it up” in Afghanistan by launching a military invasion and then seeking a political solution with the Taliban from a position of weakness.

“I think the US has really messed it up in Afghanistan,” said Imran Khan, adding that Washington should have opted for a political settlement with the Taliban much earlier, when it had the upper hand.

“But once they had reduced the troops to barely 10,000, and then, when they gave an exit date, the Taliban thought they had won. And so, therefore, it was very difficult for now to get them to compromise,” he said.

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The cricketer-turned-politician remarks came against the backdrop of a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan as US and allied nations withdraw their troops from the country.

When the interviewer asked whether he thought the Taliban resurgence was a positive development for Afghanistan, Imran Khan reiterated that the only good outcome would be a political settlement, “which is inclusive”.

“Obviously, Taliban (will be) part of that government,” he added.

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Khan described the “worst-case scenario” as being one where Afghanistan descends into a civil war. “From Pakistan’s point of view, that is the worst-case scenario, because we then we face two scenarios, one (of them being) a refugee problem,” he said.

Pakistan’s position on the instability in Afghanistan is straightforward, said Imran Khan, in that it wants to help facilitate dialogue between the Taliban and the US. However, Islamabad won’t enter into another “transactional relationship” with Washington and become a hired gun, nor will it allow the US to set up counterinsurgency bases in the country.

“If there’s a conflict going on in Afghanistan and there are bases in Pakistan, we then become targets. We want to be partners in peace, but not in conflict,” he said.

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India Today

India Today is a weekly Indian English-language news magazine published by Living Media India Limited. It is the most widely circulated magazine in India, with a readership of close to 8 million. In 2014, India Today launched a new online opinion-orientated site called the DailyO.

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