Joining Afghan war with Americans was a mistake, Imran tells NA
PM invites opposition for talks on electoral reforms
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Prime Minister Imran Khan, while addressing the Budget session of the National Assembly on Wednesday, has said that joining the war in Afghanistan as an ally of the United States was a mistake that cost Pakistan heavily in terms of financial losses and sacrifices of over 70,000 Pakistanis.
Recalling the post-9/11 era when Pakistan had decided to throw its weight behind the US-led allied forces’ operation in Afghanistan by becoming a frontline state, Prime Minister reminded the Lower House that he had the same opinion even then that the country had nothing to do with that war. “And what we got out of that decision; the loss of 70, 000 precious lives of both soldiers and civilians, and the financial loss of around Rs150 billion,” he regretted.
He further said this did not stop there as our then government even rounded up Pakistanis in the name of the war on terror and handed them over to the US, something which even Musharraf admitted.
PM Imran said Al-Qaeda landed in Pakistan after it aided the US and allied countries’ forces.
"We were ordered to send our troops to the tribal areas for going after a few militants,” he said and added, “while on one hand, our troops fought against the native tribesmen, the US killed and maimed people through drone attacks.”
And when he raised the voice against the US-led operation, the prime minister said, he was dubbed as Taliban Khan.
PM Imran questioned, “Is there any instance in which a country bombs the citizens of its allied country?”
He wondered while on one hand, the government gave a green signal to drone attacks, it kept issuing statements condemning these attacks on the other. “The then government did not have the courage to say ‘No’ to the USA,” he said, and added, “And in order to escape people’s ire, the government kept telling them lies.”
The prime minister recalled that overseas Pakistanis’ heads hung in shame when the US unilaterally carried out the operation to eliminate Osama bin Laden. “Will the UK allow us to eliminate Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) founder, who has been living in London for the past 30 years, through drone attack,” he questioned.
He asserted that now the nation should understand that those nations which did not respect themselves, were not respected by the outside world.
Talking about the question of giving bases to the US, PM Imran said it was unfortunate that the US did not acknowledge Pakistan’s sacrifices in the war on terror, and only accused of practicing double standards.
Making it clear that Pakistan neither wanted any confrontation in Afghanistan nor was looking for strategic depth in the country, he said categorically that Pakistan could be a partner with the USA in peace, but not in war.
Prime Minister Imran Khan has invited the opposition parties for talks on electoral reforms, reported 24News HD TV channel on Wednesday.
Speaking at the National Assembly (NA) budget session, a day after the government passed the budget for the fiscal year 2021-22, the PM said that the electronic voting machines (EVM) were the only way to make the election process transparent. He said, "We have to take this step today to prevent further allegations of fraud. I urge the opposition that elections are a problem for Pakistan and the government is ready to listen if the opposition has proposals for electoral reforms."
He said the opposition had not, so far, responded to the reforms proposed by the government and also stressed that the use of EVM was important to check the irregularities that take place at the close of the voting process. He, however, said that if the opposition has some other suggestions on electoral reforms, we are ready to listen to them.
He said as the country was about to take off economically that suddenly the coronavirus pandemic raised its head. He said Pakistan had managed to successfully come out of the critical phase of its history because of the smart lockdowns the government imposed contrary to other countries of the world where strict lockdowns ruined those countries' economies.
“The reason why we remained successful was that we opened small industries, construction and agriculture sectors early; distributed amounts among millions of people under the Ihsas Programme so that the country could stand back on its own feet economically,” he elaborated.
The prime minister said that the country’s imports had increased because the government was importing machinery for manufacturing goods for export.
Informing the House that Pakistan’s exports had increased by 17 percent during the last year, PM Imran said the government was concentrating on further increasing exports since the economy would grow only when there would be more exports.
The prime minister said both India and China had almost the same populations. “Both countries were equal economically around 35 years ago,” he said, and added, “But due to the policies of the Chinese leadership, today China is way ahead of India.”
Another challenge, the prime minister added, was that of attack by locusts in villages. “And we came out of that situation too courtesy Fakhar Imam’s steps,” he said, and added, “That’s why there was record agricultural produce in the country this year. Another reason for record production was that we gave money to the farmers on time.”
PM Imran was of the view that developing the agriculture sector produced instant results.
He congratulated Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin for making the budget what he called as per his vision.
He further said that leaders of the Pakistan movement had borrowed the concept of the Islamic welfare state from the state of Medina.