Zalmay Khalilzad fears ban on Imran Khan and PTI
Warns of decline in international support, increase in political polarization and violence
March 22, 2023 12:56 PM
Former US Ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq and the United Nations Zalmay Khalilzad has cautioned the Pakistan government against taking an extreme step against Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan, reported 24NewsHD TV channel on Wednesday.
In a series of tweets, Zalmay Khalilzad said that there are indications that Pakistan’s parliament, which is controlled by the governing coalition, might well ask the Supreme Court to disqualify Imran Khan from running for election and even ban PTI in the next few days.
“The government appears to have decided to set up Imran Khan as Enemy No 1 of the State. Such steps will only deepen Pakistan’s triple crises: political, economic, and security. Already, some countries have suspended planned investments,” Khalilzad said.
“The IMF support remains doubtful. If the steps mentioned take place, international support for Pakistan will decline further. Political polarization and violence will likely increase,” he added.
“I hope the Pakistani political leaders rise above destructive petty politics that undermine the national interest. If not, I hope the Supreme Court says no to being used in games that undermine the nation’s interests. I am becoming increasingly concerned about Pakistan,” concluded the US leader.
Foreign Office’s earlier reaction
About a week ago, the Foreign Office (FO) had reacted strongly to Zalmay Khalilzad’s earlier suggestions, saying Pakistan did not need “unsolicited advice” on the challenges it faces.
Khalilzad, who had served as the special envoy for Afghan reconciliation under both the Trump and Biden administrations, said that Pakistan was “underperforming and falling far behind” India. “Pakistan faces a triple crisis: political, economic, and security. Despite great potential, it is underperforming and falling far behind its archrival, India. It is time for serious soul-searching, bold thinking, and strategising,” he had remarked on Tuesday night as law enforcers clashed with PTI supporters outside the home of ex-premier Imran Khan in Lahore.
“The sequential cannibalising of its (Pakistan’s) leaders through jailing, execution, assassination, etc is the wrong path,” Khalilzad said, adding that arresting PTI chief Imran would only “deepen the crisis”.
He proposed “two steps” to deal with the country’s challenges, the first being to set a date for general elections in early June to “avert a meltdown”.
Secondly, he called for using this time for the main political parties to “confront what has gone wrong and propose a specific plan to rescue and put the country on a path to stability, security, and prosperity”.
“Whichever party wins the election will have a mandate from the people on what must be done,” he said.
FO spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch responded to Khalilzad’s tweets, saying: “Pakistan does not need lectures or unsolicited advice from anyone on how to cope with the challenges we face today.”
“As a resilient nation, we will come out stronger from the present difficult situation,” she added.