Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has expressed the desire for a “proper relationship” with the United States, and not one where his country is “treated like a hired gun” to fight others’ wars. In an interview with The Washington Post, Khan criticised the United States’ “deeply flawed policies” on Afghanistan and denied there were any sanctuaries for Taliban leaders in Pakistan.

“I would never want to have a relationship where Pakistan is treated like a hired gun – given money to fight someone else’s war,” Khan told the newspaper. “We should never put ourselves in this position again. It not only cost us human lives, devastation of our tribal areas, but it also cost us our dignity.”

Khan said he wanted a relationship with the US like the one with China – “not one-dimensional” and a “trade relationship”. “Who would not want to be friends with a superpower?” he said.

Khan also expressed hope that Islamabad and New Delhi would resume talks after the General Elections in India next summer. He said India “rebuffed all [his] overtures” because “the ruling party [the Bharatiya Janata Party] has an anti-Muslim, anti-Pakistan approach”.

Khan has made similar remarks earlier after India cancelled a proposed meeting in New York between the two countries’ foreign ministers in September. The proposal for a meeting had followed Khan’s letter to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, offering “constructive engagement”. Khan had written the letter soon after he became prime minister in August.

On the Mumbai terror attacks of 2008, Khan said: “We also want something done about the bombers of Mumbai. I have asked our government to find out the status of the case. Resolving that case is in our interest because it was an act of terrorism.”

Peace in Afghanistan

Khan told The Washington Post that Pakistani security forces have repeatedly asked the United States for evidence on its claims that there are “sanctuaries” for the Taliban in Pakistan. “But where are these people?” he asked. “Our border between Pakistan and Afghanistan has the greatest amount of surveillance. The US has satellites and drones. These people crossing would be seen... There are no sanctuaries in Pakistan.”

On being asked about accusations by the US that Pakistan was “harbouring” Taliban leaders, Khan said: “I have never understood these accusations. Pakistan had nothing to do with 9/11...And yet Pakistan was asked to participate in the US war. In the 1980s, we collaborated with the US in the Soviet jihad there. Then, in 1989, when the Soviets packed up and left, the US did too. Pakistan was left with militant groups and 4 million Afghan refugees.”

If Pakistan had stayed neutral after the September 2001 terror attack in the United States, Pakistan would have saved itself from devastation, Khan said. “By becoming the front-line state for the U.S. in the war on terror, this country went through hell,” he said. “Over 80,000 people died in the war, and estimates are that over $150 billion was lost in the economy. Investors wouldn’t come, nor would sports teams. Pakistan was known as the most dangerous place in the world.”

This time, Khan said, the United States should not leave Afghanistan in a hurry like they did in 1989.