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‘Imran Khan vindicated for prescient position on Afghanistan’


The withdrawal of the US troops from Afghanistan and the Taliban takeover have vindicated Prime Minister Imran Khan which made his decades-old position on Afghanistan look prescient.

“Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan appears vindicated by the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan,” a Financial Times report said on Thursday.

It said that Premier Imran had for years criticised the US invasion of Afghanistan. Long before former president Donald Trump signed a withdrawal deal with the Taliban, PM Imran had been pushing for peace talks.

According to Financial Times, the premier had repeatedly decried the US war on terror, and its involvement in Afghanistan since 2001, saying in countless interviews that it was one of Pakistan’s “biggest blunders” to get involved, a mistake that cost over 70,000 Pakistani lives compared with less than 2,500 American soldiers.

Read more: Pace of CPEC projects would be accelerated: PM Imran

In 2013, as chair of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, PM Imran threatened to block Nato supply routes after US drone strikes in Pakistan. “For his stance, he was even ridiculed by critics who said his positions were hollow and half-baked.”

The prime minister’s recent calls to engage with and “incentivise” the Taliban since it took power resonate in Pakistan, where the US war on terror has bred resentment and hostility,” the London-based daily said.

PM Imran on track to complete term — first since ZA Bhutto: polls

For his government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic — a far lower death rate and less economic disruption compared with arch-rival India — polls say that PM Imran is now on track to become Pakistan’s first prime minister to complete a full term since Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in the 1970s, and be re-elected.

The report stated that as the prime minister steers the country through a radical reshaping of the geopolitical order of South Asia with the US exit from Afghanistan, Pakistan is seeking to re-establish itself as a strategic bridge in the region for the world’s great powers.

“Imran Khan went on the offensive at the UN General Assembly on September 24, when in a pre-recorded speech he criticised the US for using Pakistan as a scapegoat for its failures in Afghanistan,” the report stated.

Also read: Modi’s fall from grace in US

“If the world community incentivises them [the Taliban], and encourages them to walk this talk, it will be a win-win situation for everyone,” PM Imran told the UNGA.

The latest poll by Gallup Pakistan shows him with a 48 per cent approval rating, his highest since coming into power in 2018, and seven out of 10 Pakistanis believe he will complete his five-year term before elections in 2023.

“Imran Khan and the military are on the same page,” says Bilal Gilani, executive director of Gallup Pakistan.

Yet government insiders say Imran Khan’s gut instinct on issues — such as his decision not to enforce a harsh coronavirus lockdown thus sparing the poor from an even greater economic catastrophe — have proved popular.

‘He proved us wrong’

“When everyone shut down [during the pandemic], PM Imran said ‘no, you need to trust me on this’,” says a government adviser. “We thought he was a goner, that the government would collapse, but he proved us wrong.”

Pakistan’s economy is expected to expand at an annual rate of 4 per cent in 2022, boosted in part by expansionary fiscal policies introduced to revive growth following the shock of the pandemic.

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