Islamabad: Cricketer-turned-politician Imran
Khan has said his party will ensure no militant groups operate
from Pakistani soil if it comes to power, but stopped short of
committing himself to action against JuD and its leader Hafiz
Saeed with a telling comment that "I`m living in Pakistan."
Khan, who heads the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf party, said
it should be the country`s state policy to ensure that "there
are no militant groups operating from within Pakistan".
He remarked that as "things stand today, Pakistan has
no choice but to go this way".
"As a policy, if the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf government
comes to power, we will insist on there being no militant
groups operating within Pakistan because the world has
changed. The groups were created during the Afghan jihad, and
this is now an outdated concept of having them as assets,"
Khan said in an interview.
However, when he was specifically asked if he would
check the activities of Saeed, who masterminded the 2008
Mumbai attacks, along with his group JuD and its front
organisations like the Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation, Khan did
not commit himself to acting against these elements due to
perceived fears posed by extremists.
"Look, I`m living in Pakistan. Pakistan at the moment is
the most polarised country in the world. A Governor gets shot,
his assassin becomes a hero. There`s no point in becoming a
hero right now in this country where there`s no rule of law,"
he said, referring to the assassination of Punjab Governor
"Life is very cheap here, so just let me make a policy
statement. Don`t just go into details. As a policy statement,
it should answer your question. No militant groups (will be)
operating from within Pakistan," he said.
Taseer, a top leader of the ruling PPP, was gunned down
by a police commando who was part of his security detail
outside a restaurant in Islamabad in January.
Mumtaz Qadri, the policeman who killed the Governor,
said he was angered by Taseer`s criticism of the controversial
blasphemy law. Qadri was subsequently convicted and sentenced
to death by an anti-terrorism court.
However, hardline religious and extremist groups and
even lawyers` organisations hailed him as a hero and demanded
that the President should pardon him.
During the interview, Khan said the time had come
"to not only remove all militant groups (and) disarm them" but
also to work for the "de-weaponisation in Pakistan because it
is causing massive problems within the country".
"Therefore, once that issue disappears, once there are no
militant groups within Pakistan, I think that issue will
disappear," he contended.
Asked how his party`s policy towards India would be
different, Khan replied that he would work for a new
relationship "based on mutual trust" in which intelligence
agencies would have no role.
He said: "At the moment, Pakistan doesn`t trust
India. India doesn`t trust Pakistan. Here there is a big
perception that our water is being stolen, and (in)
Balochistan, the Indian secret services are active with the
BLA (Balochistan Liberation Army). In India, the perception is
that any terrorist act is financed by Pakistan`s ISI.
"You can never have a relationship based on mistrust. I
think the time has come to have a new relationship and I
believe that if you can eliminate the roles of intelligence
agencies, (the) two civilian governments can sit together and
say we`ll resolve all our issues through dialogue. I think
it`s the way forward because the benefits of peace are
enormous," he added.
There are militant groups that are "targeting people
within Pakistan" and countries around the world, including
Afghanistan, European nations and the US were "complaining"
about terrorism emanating from Pakistan, Khan said.
He said that if he becomes Prime Minister after the next
election, he would take on the "responsibility" and
"authority" for tackling terrorism blamed on the ISI or
"It`s not going to happen that here`s me holding
responsibility and some group is operating independently,
whether it`s the ISI or any other group," he said.
"The answer is the ISI and the Army would be under
civilian government control, and if I can`t do it, I`d much
rather resign. But if I take responsibility, it would mean
that whatever policy is made by our Cabinet will have to be
enforced... with every institution."
Asked if he would ensure that the ISI and Pakistan
army would not target India if he became the Premier, Khan
said: "But ISI and army are the same thing. I am saying that
if I, as the elected Prime Minister who has the mandate of the
people, if every institution is not under the civilian
government, I`d much rather resign.
"Remember, don`t confuse me with these other people
who do not come to power to govern. They`re all making money
and they allow different groups to operate," he said.
Khan said: "I`m not only making a promise to the Indian
people, I think I`m making a promise to anyone. The biggest
problem the US faces, you know they worry about terrorism from
Pakistani soil. It`s not just India which is worried. If I
cannot stop terrorism from Pakistani soil, I`d rather not be
the Prime Minister."
At the same time, Khan said Indians should "guarantee us
that we should have no problems either in Balochistan or in
some areas where Indian agencies are blamed".
Khan contended it would be wrong to blame Pakistan for
the problems in Afghanistan as 140,000 troops from the US
and NATO had failed to provide a solution in the war-torn
"The greatest military machine ever has failed, and
to blame a few thousand (fighters from) the Haqqani group from
Pakistan... not only is this completely not plausible but it`s
defying history. Afghans have never accepted foreign
invaders," he said.