RIYADH: Prime Minister Imran Khan says Pakistan will always stand with Saudi Arabia whenever it faces difficult time.
“Pakistanis want to assure people of Saudi Arabia that we will stand with Saudi Arabia, because Saudi Arabia has stood with us in bad times. We will always stand by Saudi Arabia whenever it faces difficult time,” Imran told Saudi Gazette in an exclusive interview during his maiden visit to the Kingdom.
In his exclusive interview to the English daily, Imran also stated that Pakistan would like to play the role of a mediator in West Asia to bring the Muslim world together.
“We would like our role as reconciliator to bring Muslim world together. This would be our main effort, Imran said and added that in Yemen too, if we are required, we will play positive role there also to end the conflict, said Imran.
Prime Minister Imran Khan sat down with Saudi Gazette for an interview what the English daily described as the Pakistani leader’s first international media interaction.
He said Pakistan will not allow anyone to attack Saudi Arabia and assured it full support. He made this statement while responding a question that, “the Houthi militias have been regularly firing missiles toward Saudi Arabia. They even tried to attack the Haram.
The Prime Minister said Saudi Arabia always helped Pakistan when it has been in a need. He said Pakistan has tremendous opportunities of investments and after completion of China Pakistan Economic Corridor, it will have more potential than other countries in this region.
Imran said that Saudi Arabia is one country for which the people of Pakistan have special love. Every Muslim has a special bond with Saudi Arabia because of Makkah and Madinah.
He said the government of Saudi Arabia has always been very generous to Pakistan in times of our need. Saudi Arabia always has been of great help for us. There is a special bond with Saudi Arabia. All Pakistanis want Saudi Arabia to be secure and prosperous. We all pray for Saudi Arabia.
Imran said that Pakistan want to develop its relations with all neighbours including Afghanistan and India, a relationship based on mutual trust. He said that Pakistan have good relations with Iran and China.
About war on terror, Imran Khan said Pakistan’s economy suffered a loss of 100 billion dollars while thousands of Pakistanis were martyred in this war.
The prime minister said Pakistan wants peace and stability in the region. He said Pakistan has already very good relationship with China and we need good relationship with Afghanistan and India as well.
Regarding the ongoing crises in Libya, Somalia and Syria, the Prime Minister said Saudi Arabia is pivotal country in the Muslim world and can play a big part in ending these conflicts.
Apart from discussing foreign policy and future plans to tackle the challenges facing his country, Khan while responding to a question went on to explain who actually he is: a former cricket hero, a philanthropist or a leader?
“I would like to start by asking: Who is Imran Khan? Is he the famous cricketer or is he the philanthropist behind one of the world’s finest cancer hospitals or he is a leader who struggled for 22 years to give Pakistan a new vision?,” asked Fahim al-Hamid who conducted the interview for the Kingdom’s leading English daily.
“Seeing my mother’s pain in cancer, I decide to build a cancer hospital. Then I decided that I wanted to see Pakistan of my dream when I was growing up. Pakistan was not heading in that direction. So then the next struggle came to change Pakistan. The word New Pakistan (Naya Pakistan) is actually Pakistan of the vision of our founding fathers,” said Khan.
Imran Khan has a Herculean task to fulfill his dreams to have “New Pakistan” (Naya Pakistan) which is actually Pakistan of the vision of founding fathers. He has three-pronged strategy to realize this dream: to fight poverty and corruption, to invest in human resources and to build strong institutions.
Explaining the reason why he chose to visit Saudi Arabia for the first foreign tour as prime minister, Khan said that Saudi Arabia has a special place in the hearts of all Muslims. So it is but natural for a Muslim leader to visit Makkah and Madinah, he said.
The Prime Minister said that his role model was Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who was the greatest leader not only for Pakistan, but the greatest leader of the 20th century.
“Then we had ideological leaders like Iqbal, the philosopher poet. The model of Pakistan they wanted is not Pakistan which became a country heading toward wrong direction. Hence I joined politics. And 22 years of struggle in politics and here I have an opportunity now to fulfill my dream. So power is only meant for a purpose and so the power I have is now to achieve my last dream to see Pakistan as a state which is a justice state and an Islamic welfare state where meritocracy is upheld, he remarked.
To a question to solve old and multiple crises facing Pakistan during the five years tenure, Khan replied: “Look, as a Muslim, when we pray five times a day, we only ask one thing from Allah. We ask Allah to show us the way of those He has blessed, not the ones who went astray. So I seek the way of the blessed. And you know success is not in our hands, its in Allah’s hands. All He expects us to do is to struggle in that way which he has commanded us. I am trying to change the direction of Pakistan and put it on the right course which it was meant to take. I repeat that it meant to be just and humane society.”
He vowed to change the way Pakistan has been governed. “We will change the mindset of the people of Pakistan. We will do it in two ways: One we will lift up bottom 50 percent of the population, rather than rich grow richer, bring people out of poverty, very much what china has done. China’s greatness is that it has taken out of poverty 700 million people in past 30 years. And it has become a world power,” he said.
He added: “So we fundamentally differ from the way Pakistan has been governed, that’s number one. Number two, we want to make Pakistan to be a country where we invest in human resources, we spend money on human beings rather than on infrastructure. Once you develop human resources they themselves invest in infrastructure. So the key is health, education, clean drinking water, justice. The priority number three is to build strong institutions. Countries are built on institutions. The reason the West is ahead of Muslims is that it has strong institutions. The state institutions should be strong and individuals should not be above institutions.”
Unfortunately, Pakistan has weak institutions where individuals are strong. In countries like Switzerland and Scandinavian countries, you don’t even know who their prime minister is because institutions are strong and people come and go but the countries stay on top.
To a question on proactive forging policy impact the geopolitical scenario, Imran Khan said: “Let me say first that Pakistan has suffered for the last 15 years because of the war on terror. Pakistan opted to join the war on terror which had nothing to do with it. The people who were responsible for 911 were not in Pakistan, no Pakistani was involved and Al-Qaeda was in Afghanistan. For no reason Pakistan got involved in this war and we suffered, resulting the death of 88,000 Pakistanis. The loss to the economy has been over $100 billion. Our tribal areas along the Afghanistan border have been devastated. So what we now want is peace, stability. To get stability we need peace with all our neighbors. We already have very good relationship with China; we need good relationship with Afghanistan and India. We have made overtures to both. We want to develop our relations with both Afghanistan and India, a relationship based on mutual trust. Unfortunately this is what has been missing. Pakistan has one point of view, but India and Afghanistan have another point of view. What is lacking is the lack of trust. So we want to build our relationships based on mutual trust.”
He said Iran is a neighbor. Of course, you want good relationship with all neighbors.
To another question he said Pakistan has tremendous opportunities of investments. It has more potential probably than other countries in this region. The reason that Pakistan has a second youngest population, it’s a country of population of 200 million people, it’s a country that is very diverse. One of the things no one knows about Pakistan is that it has 12 climates, 12 climate zones, because Pakistan from the highest levels to the sea has the steepest gradients which means different climates every step.
To a question, the Prime Minister said that CPEC is one of the greatest opportunities which allows people to invest in Pakistan. CPEC connects Pakistan from sea right up to China and all along the way there will be industrial zones which will be great opportunity for the people to invest. In future Insha Allah once peace comes in Afghanistan then the same road will connect Pakistan to Central Asia because CPEC can go through Afghanistan to Central Asia. So this whole area is where the future is, I mean huge markets and inshaAllah when relationship is improved with India, then you have huge market in Indian side, Chinese market, Central Asian markets.
The geostrategic position of Pakistan is such that as I said if we can fix our governance system this is one of the best places to invest in.
To another question on Islamic Military Counter Terrorism, the Pakistani Prime Minister said no country in the world than Pakistan can give expert advice on countering terrorism. There was time when we were having on a daily basis massive suicide attacks. In 2013 it was terrorism was on peak, yet our intelligence agencies along with Pakistan’s security forces achieved what very few countries could have achieved. So Pakistan has this unique experience. It can probably advice countries how to tackle terrorism. But at the same time there should be a second track in the form of political dialogue.
Responding to a question on the drastic reforms undertaken by His Royal Highness Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman under the Vision 2030, Imran said Pakistan praised anti-corruption drive in Saudi Arabia. Corruption is the main reason why countries remain poor. “I keep repeating that countries don’t remain poor because of lack of resources, they become poor because of corruption,” he said.
“So this anti-corruption drive in Saudi Arabia is something we feel to be doing exactly the same. I would love to do what have been done in Saudi Arabia. We are also conducting a big anti-corruption drive,” said Imran.
He said the Muslim world has been under colonial rule. In the first half of the 20th century, when we came out of colonialism, we tried to evolved finding a new forms of government. Every Muslim country is going through different stages of evolution. But what started happening is that we have a new colonialism. We are told how to behave in the name of human rights and other issues, about the state of women in the Muslim world. Somehow Western countries tried to dictate Msulim countries how they should conduct themselves, what culture should they have, what was right what was wrong, and this was new colonialism.
“In fact it was cultural imperialism. Countries don’t evolve when another culture is super-imposed,” he said.
He said countries organically grow from roots embedded in their societies. When you superimpose another culture it causes cultural chaos. “So I am a strong believer that a society must evolve from within their culture, history and religion,” he remarked. —NNI