ISLAMABAD: Imran Khan said Saturday that meeting U.S. President Donald Trump would be a “bitter pill” to swallow should he become Pakistan’s prime minister in elections later this year, but added “I would meet him.”
In a press briefing, Khan said he has been a staunch opponent of Pakistan’s participation in the war on terror since it began in 2001 following the 9/11 attacks on the U.S.
“Pakistan had nothing to do with it,” he said, adding that he supported co-operation with the United States but not co-opting Pakistan’s military into a ground battle with its own people in the tribal regions that border Afghanistan and where Afghan insurgents hide.
Khan said that Trump scapegoated Pakistan for the U.S.-led coalition’s failure to defeat the Taliban and bring peace to Afghanistan, and that “it was very insulting of him.”
Should he become Pakistan’s prime minister, Khan said “yes we would talk,” referring to Trump, but added that the U.S. dishonors the memory of thousands of Pakistan’s soldiers who died battling insurgents in its tribal regions, as well as that of tens of thousands of Pakistanis who died in terrorist attacks.
“The way the United States has treated Pakistan as a doormat is not fair,” he said.
Pakistan’s politics have been in turmoil since Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was dismissed from power last year on corruption charges and a party faithful, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, was sworn in as prime minister until new elections are held.
Khan referred to Sharif’s family, which dominates the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (PML), as “a political mafia” that he vowed to defeat at the polls.
At the press briefing, Khan said he was committed to “mainstreaming” Pakistan’s tens of thousands of madrassas, or religious seminaries, which provide the only education for more than 2 million children, many of them among the poorest.
He said he wants madrassa school graduates to have skills that will allow them to find jobs across all sectors. As it stands, madrassa graduates are ill-equipped to work as anything other than clerics or prayer leaders.
“We will train their teachers to bring them into the mainstream,” he said, without providing details on how that would be accomplished.
Khan has called for early elections, which should be held by July in keeping with the Constitution.— AP