This 2012 Julian Assange Interview With Imran Khan Sheds Light on The Man Set to End Pakistan’s Political Dynasties

In 2012, Julian Assange had just entered the Ecuadorian Embassy as an asylum seeker under the auspices of his ally, the then President of Ecuador Rafael Correa. It was at this time that Pakistan was preparing for its first ever peaceful democratic transition in the run-up to the 2013 general elections.

 

 

As part of his former television show The World Tomorrow, Julian Assange conducted a wide ranging interview with Imran Khan where the leader of Pakistan’s PTI party discussed the struggle against dynastic politics, his support for the 2007 lawyers movement, the complex relationship between Pakistan’s intelligence agencies and the US – with an emphasis on the mutual about face after 9/11, Imran’s support of Assange and Wikileaks, comparisons between PTI’s anti-establishment drive and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s reformist drive of the early 1970s and Pakistan’s early 2000s boom in privately owned media outlets which continue to shape the discourse.

The interview which sheds great insight Imran Khan’s vision for the future at a time when his electoral fortunes were uncertain. This itself is instructive in helping viewers in 2018 to understand the kind of Prime Minister he will become should his PTI party achieve victory in tomorrow’s polls as is widely expected.

Below is Eurasia Future’s full report on Iman Khan on the verge of one of the most historic election days in Pakistan’s history:

Imran Khan’s PTI party are now the front-runners in a long awaited Pakistani general election which will take place on the 25th of July. In many ways Imran Khan is a paradox. He is opposition veteran but a novice in terms of government. He is currently 65 years of age, but is still something of the young man of Pakistani politics even though one of his opponents, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is only 29. On the whole, Imran Khan has gone from a man that leading political dynasties used to mock to a man they are now accusing of conspiring with the military sstablishment to achieve a victory. In many ways, this itself represents Imran Khan coming full circle in terms of the de-facto and asymmetrical cursus honorum of Pakistani politics. In reality though, Imran Khan’s road to the centre of political attention in many ways mirrors Pakistan’s own domestic and geopolitical trials and tribulations of the last several decades.

Imran Khan entered politics in 1996 when he formed his party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (The Pakistan Movement of Justice). At the time, Imran Khan was already an international celebrity due to his career as a star cricketer, but in terms of politics he was seen widely as an outsider with some even calling PTI a “vanity project”.

 

 

Since 1996, Pakistan has faced a war with India in 1999 – the Kargil War, a military coup led by Pervez Musharraf that same year, the fomentation of new extremist terror groups since Musharraf joined George W. Bush’s so-called war on terror, a democratic transition in 2008 whose poll PTI boycotted and since then, the establishment of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which looks to revitalise the long term sustainable economic development of every region of Pakistan as the country forms the south Asian epicentre of the One Belt–One Road initiative.

While PTI came third at a national level in the 2013 general elections (albeit with in striking distance of the centre-left PPP), during Pakistan’s last major elections Imran Khan’s party won control of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province – Pakistan’s most politically unstable region. While many felt that PTI did not have the tools to govern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa effectively, the party has largely succeeded in bringing largely good government to a place that had previously been classed as “ungovernable”.

In the run-up to this year’s election, Imran Khan has drawn large crowds in all provinces of the country while in the all important Punjab province where 60% of Pakistanis live, he is now seriously threatening the rule of the incumbent PML-N.  In particular, PTI has been able to highlight the dramatic disparity between the rich northern portion of Punjab and the economically neglected southern portions of the province, promising to rectify this intra-regional inequality if the party is victorious at a national level.

 

 

Likewise, many of Iman Khan’s personal predictions and policy proposals have in fact been vindicated at a national level. Iman Khan has always expressed scepticism regarding a lopsided relationship with the United States. Imran Khan has condemned Washington’s “war on terror” as an experience in futility that has poured fuel on many regional fires that Pakistanis have suffered from disproportionately.

Iman Khan has instead proposed regional cooperation mechanisms for fighting extremism while also working to integrate wayward Pakistanis back into the fold of mainstream politics and society. Rather than viewing extremism as a Manichaean or unilateral struggle, he has urged for dangerous terror groups to be separated from those living in economically depressed regions where a lack of life options forces the young and under-educated into the arms of dangerous groups. Such a strategy has tended to work in helping to normalise life in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, thus setting an important precedent for the nation. For Imran Khan, economic and educational opportunities have been central to his proposals for ending the scourge of extremism.

As PTI have campaigned actively in all provinces of Pakistan more thoroughly than during any previous election, it is not difficult to see why PTI’s numbers have risen substantially in opinion polls in recent months. While the incumbent PML-N remains a formidable political machine, its scandal prone leaders have taken a toll on the party’s prestige.

Currently, the party’s putative leader Nawaz Sharif is behind bars after a court found him guilty of financial wrongdoings regarding the purchase of a large property in central London with funds that could not be accounted for. Nawaz’s sister Maryam is also behind bars for the same matter while current PML-N leader Shehbaz Sharif has blamed a conspiracy between the military and high court judges for holding back the electoral fortunes of the political juggernaut that is PML-N.

 

 

The fact of the matter is that the truth of such matters typically sits somewhere between the partisan accusations on all sides. Without a doubt, PML-N has a history of corruption while it is also clear that some of the more recent charges against party big-wigs do seem to be at least party motivated by an agenda beyond the scope of objective law enforcement.

That being said, both the aforementioned realities and the more absurd accusations to grow from these realities is not by any means exceptional in Pakistani politics. It is in fact ‘the rule that proves the rule’. In spite of this however, Imran Khan and PTI do remain the exceptions. As a hard working party that lacks the organised political machine of its main rivals, PTI has taken its anti-dynastic populist message directly to the people and the message appears to be making waves.

Taken in totality, PTI represents Pakistan’s version of a ‘third force’ in politics that offers a new path between the dogmas of the traditional centre-right and traditional centre-left. In this sense, PTI’s strong polling numbers are reminiscent of Turkey’s President Erdogan’s AK Party in the early 2000s which went from the political equivalent of “nothing” to capturing a majority of Turkish voters in successive elections thereby transforming Turkey’s political establishment on many levels. Imran Khan’s success is also somewhat reminiscent of the 2016 election victory of Rodrigo Duterte in The Philippines who also represented a new political force at a national level which takes a no-nonsense approach to popular concerns.

 

 

Even in the US where political outsider Donald Trump won an election, while leftist veteran Bernie Sanders remains more popular than ever, it is clear that in a variety of nations with differing political systems and economic standings in the world – political forces from outside of the traditional ruling elite are winning hearts, minds and elections.

Imran Khan has already won the hearts and minds of millions of Pakistanis with young people being a particularly strong part of his demographic. PTI has already de-facto succeeded in taking over from the PPP as Pakistan’s leading opposition party.

Therefore, on the 25th July Imran Khan will face his biggest challenge. It will not be an easy one even with the wind clearly behind his back, but if PTI do succeed, it will be nothing short of a political revolution in a country that has had its share of coups and flawed elections but one which desperately awaits peaceful political change.

 

Here one can read the full transcript of Julian Assange’s 2012 interview with Imran Khan:

[11:51:48.04]
IK:
Hi Julian.

[11:51:48.22]
JA:
Imran, what a pleasure to see you.

[11:51:53.09]
IK:
How are you?

[11:51:53.23]
JA:
I’m alright. I have a bit of a cold, but I think that’s a good thing because my voice is a bit sexier than normal and I have to compete with you.

[11:52:03.03]
IK:
Well, you had very… I thought we were having interesting times here. but you are having a very interesting time.

[11:52:09.22]
JA:
Well, I think your interesting time is a bit more interesting than my interesting time but, I don’t know, I was thinking… I saw these videos of your rallies last night and Jemima [Khan]and Jennifer [Robinson] also told me when they came to visit you what that was like, and… so I think this is great but I worry that you’re going to get blown up.

[11:52:35.01]
IK:
Sorry, Julian what did you say?

[11:52:37.11]
JA:
Successful politicians in Pakistan have a habit of being assassinated. So I hope your interesting time doesn’t get any more interesting.

[11:52:46.19]
IK:
Well, put it this way Julian, you’ve got to go sometime. I mean, better to go for some cause rather than just… like I was, you know, when I set up this cancer hospital so I used to see healthy people coming in and six months later they were gone, so I have a completely different attitude to life and death.

[11:53:07.01]
JA:
This is the one that I have thought as well, with what I have been doing – that… you’re not around for long so you might as well make the most of it.

[11:53:15.13]
IK:
Yeah.

[11:53:17.23]
JA:
Although…

[11:53:20.14]
IK:
You don’t realise the impact your… the WikiLeaks made, not just the impact it made all over the world but in Pakistan – the way they exposed all these two-faced politicians, you know, who were sucking up to the Americans and saying… in private telling them how great they were and, you know, sucking up to them, and in public giving completely opposite statements, so it was a… especially this one religious, er… this guy who’s the cleric who leads this religious party, and he literally told the Americans, he said ‘Look, if you back me to become the prime minister, I’ll do whatever you want me to do’, and he’s conserv… the most anti-American politician here. So anyway, it was a great… it really exposed a lot of people here.

[11:54:14.07]
JA:
We saw this in other countries as well, this two-facedness. In Peru, actually, the government seems to have changed because of this. But anyway, just before – [clears throat] I hope I can keep my voice… first of all, how long have we got with you?

[11:54:33.14]
IK:
Let’s start. Er, half an hour.

[11:54:38.00]
JA:
Can we do 45 minutes, because we have to cut…

[11:54:40.12]
IK:
Ok, let’s go.

[11:54:46.00]
JA:
Ok, great. So, I’ll just follow up on this statement you made. Um, I was researching your name in the cables, and I was like ‘Well, Imran he seems like a pretty good guy but we’d better actually check to see what the cables say about him, you know, maybe… maybe it is all spin’, and so we looked all the cables and no, you say exactly the same thing to the US ambassador as you’re saying in public. [10ISLAMABAD301] Ok, so let’s begin. So, I’ll just sort of briefly tell you what the path of things… if you keep your answers relatively short because we’ve got a lot of material to get through. So, first of all I’ll just look at where you were in 2007 versus now, and what are these changes, what has happened now; the structure of power in Pakistan; the relationship between Pakistan and the US; the War on Terror, what that has done to Pakistan; corruption in Pakistan; and interspersed with this, maybe a few things about how you were managing this, how you personally are understanding the situation and used whatever experience you’ve had previously to try and understand this dramatic new situation you’re in.

[11:56:13.19]
JA:
Ok, so in preparing for this interview we looked through the WikiLeaks US embassy cables from Islamabad and in 2007 the US ambassador writes about you and he says: ‘Khan, whose PTI Party is effectively a one-man show… I’ll start again…

[11:56:45.03]
JA:
In preparing for this interview we researched the WikiLeaks cables from Islamabad to see what they said about you, and in 2007 the US ambassador said: ‘Khan, whose PTI Party is effectively a one-man show, has little to lose. His credibility rests in his self-created role as a politician who sticks to his principles and he is popular with the Pakistani intelligentsia here and elements of diaspora, but Khan has never been able to turn his starring role of captain of Pakistan’s only team to win the International Cricket Championship into an effective political party’. [07ISLAMABAD5100] That’s obviously changed now, what’s happened in the last few months?

[11:57:28.15]
IK:
Well Julian, what happened was that… a media… from about 2005 onwards, we suddenly had a proliferation of independent television channels and the most… the most watched programmes became current affairs programmes, so today if you watch our television it’s like having eight Jeremy Paxman at prime time. So, at 8pm you have top… these guys who become opinion-makers like Jeremy Paxman. You will have on the main – on all the channels – and at prime time, where you would, for instance, have Big Brother in England or some soap opera, here at prime time people want to watch current affairs programmes, and such is the desire, um, to understand the political situation of people’s… such is the interest there that they are at prime time and they have the highest viewership. So, from 2005 onwards as we had more TV channels…

[11:58:44.06]
JA:
Why? Why were there more TV channels? What was… I mean, some opening up… was it… cheaper to run a TV channel? There was less control…?

[11:58:54.18]
IK:
No. What happened was… we always had one government-controlled television channel, and from about 2003 onwards, we started having satellite TV, so channels were beaming in, Pakistani channels from Dubai and so on, and so Musharraf decided to open up. It’s one of the, you know, one of the legacies which is positive is that he allowed TV channels to come in. And he gained from it initially because he came across much better on television than the two other previous leaders, who were already discredited – Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif – they were… people were sick of them, so Musharraf came in as someone who gave… exuded sincerity… and he came across very well on TV, so he allowed TV channels to come in. But, of course, this went wrong for him 2006 onwards, and especially when he took on the Chief Justice, it became a double-edged sword and so that’s… from the time…

[11:59:56.13]
JA:
Let me pause Imran, you’ve broken up for some reason. We’ve just lost you for a minute. Ok, you’re back again.

[12:00:06.13]
IK:
Uh, ok. So he… Musharraf gained initially by allowing the TV channels to come in, and then when he took on the judiciary it went against him. But in my case, I began to… because I had suddenly exposure on media and electronic media, my graph started going up. And so from 2007 onwards, when there was the… we stood behind the Chief Justice who had been ousted by Musharraf, what was called the Lawyers Movement, and because I was in the forefront that’s really when my party started taking off.

[12:00:43.09]
JA:
We found a cable from 2007 that says: ‘A contact at Khyber TV’ – which is one of the Pakistani TV stations – ‘told us June 5 he had canceled a planned interview with Tehrik-e-Insaf leader Imran Khan because he feared the interview would violate the new rules. (Khan is a forceful opponent of the President.) The Khyber TV contact explained that his small station could not afford the lost revenue that would ensue if the government forced it off the air, even for a few hours.’ [07ISLAMABAD2494] So that was the climate in 2007.

[12:01:19.19]
IK:
Well Julian, what happened was as Musharraf’s ratings started going down and the private TV channels started exposing him, he then started to clamp down on the independent media. Initially, he allowed it in, and then as the Lawyers Movement – and again I was in the forefront – as that started gaining momentum he then started to clamp down on independent TV channels.

[12:01:51.16]
JA:
So what’s happened in the past six months? I mean, there’s really been a tremendous rise. The opinion polls that I have read have… your popular support it’s something between 60 to 80% of the Pakistani population. In Pakistani politics that doesn’t necessarily translate into political power because of the way the seats work, but perhaps you could describe this, um, how your party has grown in size and momentum, and what’s it like for you trying to manage this incredibly fast-growing organisation?

[12:02:30.10]
IK:
Well, what happened was, from about 2008 onwards… First of all, I boycotted the elections in 2008, um, because, you know, these elections were manipulated by the Bush administration. They allowed criminals like Asif Zardari, they gave them complete… they brokered a deal between Musharraf and Benazir, where all the corruption cases were, and not only… her other crooked politicians, they were given an amnesty by Musharraf – and this was a deal brokered by the Americans and it was called the NRO, the National Reconciliation Ordinance. So, in the name of reconciliation, the Americans got Musharraf and Benazir together – and Condoleezza Rice in her latest book triumphantly writes about it – that… how Bush gave her a pat on the back when she got them together, and so… so I, along with a lot of other parties, boycotted the election because we felt that this was pre-poll rigging. Secondly, we… ‒ and how can criminals be allowed to contest elections? How can…? Musharraf did not have the right to give them amnesty because the money stolen was not from Musharraf, it belonged to Pakistan’s tax payer. So… so we boycotted the election ‒ and secondly, the Chief Justice had been ousted by Musharraf in an emergency – so, these two reasons, we boycotted the elections and so the elections went through, er… for a while my graph went down because we stayed out of elections, and then as the governments began to mess up, because once the criminals came to power corruption broke all records in Pakistan – naturally, because when you are allow crime to pay, crime multiplies – and so, as they went up, people started remembering that I warned everyone when I was boycotting the election that this election is a disast… is going to be a disaster for the people of Pakistan. It’s only meant for the Bush administration to have a puppet. One… remove one puppet ‒ Musharraf was struggling so he was likely to go ‒ they wanted another puppet government so they could pursue this War on Terror where our own Army was bombing our own people…

JA:
Yep.

IK:
… and so… so whatever I was saying… corruption went through the roof, the War on Terror was… has been devastating for Pakistan because 40,000 Pakistanis have been killed in a war we had nothing to do with. Basically, our own Army killing our own people and them then doing suicide attacks on Pakistani civilians and the country has lost 70 billion dollars on this war. Total aid has been less than 20 billion. So, I was saying all these things and suddenly it was… it just resonated with the people, and almost two years ago my graph started going up, and in the last one year it really… I was in all opinion polls I was ahead, and actually the two big rallies I did were but the culmination, it wasn’t… people suddenly saw these huge crowds but under the surface…

[12:05:49.09]
JA:
You’ve just… you’ve broken up Imran, but just hold on a moment, the connection has gone for a second. Ok, you’re back again.

[12:06:05.03]
JA:
Yeah, um, the connection’s good again. So, you were speaking about how in the last year your party, PTI, has been dramatically increasing in the poll results, and there’s a new phenomenon in Pakistan, which are these big grassroots rallies you’ve been putting together of more than 100,000 people at once.

[12:06:28.16]
IK:
That’s right. So… but this didn’t happen suddenly, this was over two years… it was already on the ground, this was… this movement was growing, and so suddenly people saw this in the rallies. Now, since the big rallies, the whole political scene has changed. We have seen now politicians rushing to me. So people who are electables, realising that the vote bank now belongs to me, they are coming to join me.

[12:06:59.24]
JA:
I heard that even Musharraf tried to say to you: ‘You PM, me President’.

[12:07:11.04]
IK:
Well, you see, Musharraf… does not understand what is happening in Pakistan because he’s outside. His whole idea of politics is on the Facebook. He doesn’t realise that on the ground in Pakistan the situation is… is completely different. Number one, he will be the biggest liability to get allied to, but number two, he’s responsible for the mess. He’s responsible for this record corruption because he’s the one who gave them amnesty, the criminals. Nowhere in the world are criminals given amnesty, and then allowed to contest elections again, and then get into power. And secondly, this War on Terror – so he’s responsible for both.

[12:07:54.06]
JA:
What is the problem with corruption in Pakistan? So, I mean… if you look at, say, the Soviet Union, which also had a lot of corruption but people said ‘Well, at least a black market is a market’, so you can have some kind of trading, it helps you get around regulations which are impeding business. What is the problem with corruption in Pakistan? Why is corruption bad for Pakistan?

[12:08:24.04]
IK:
Well, I’ll just give you statistics, ok? Transparency International, according to them, corruption and tax evasion annually, er, Pakistan loses about 2.2 trillion rupees. Now ‒ per year – now, if you… if you, you know, if you realise that the total tax collection of Pakistan per year is 1.8 trillion. So, 1.8 trillion is tax… are our revenues; 3 trillion is the expenditure, so we already have a gap, a deficit of 1.2 trillion. Now, if you could harness this corruption ‒ and by the way, this is a conservative figure, according to Transparency International ‒ so if you could just control corruption in Pakistan, the country becomes viable. At the moment, we are unviable.

[12:09:25.06]
IK:
Just to give you another statistic – that in our entire history of 60 years, the total debt accumulated by Pakistan is about… was 5 trillion. In just four years, the debt has gone up from 5 to 12 trillion. So we are now borrowing to service our debts. So, if out of 1.8 trillion, debt servicing is 800 million, half of it goes to debt servicing, 600 billion goes to pay for the Army, 180 million people have 200 billion rupees to live on. So, clearly, the country’s unviable. So, in the case of Russia, they could still go on; in the case of Pakistan we’re looking at the abyss, we’re looking at the… us going down the drain. The country is heading towards complete chaos. We don’t have money to run the country and… at the moment load shedding… we don’t have money to buy fuel to, er… to put in our power generation, so because we cannot buy fuel for our power generation – or the government can’t – there’s almost 14 hours’ load shedding, there is no electricity for 14 hours a day.

[12:10:51.23]
JA:
For 14 hours a day. Amazing. And the corruption in Pakistan, the tax evasion is one thing, but the stealing of money from the Treasury – how much of that ends up back in Pakistan, ie. it’s just taking from the poor or the middle class and transferring it to the rich in Pakistan, versus how much of the money is taken out of Pakistan and stashed into London banks or stashed into Swiss banks or US companies?

[12:11:22.11]
IK:
So, two things: Number one, because we do not have money to pay for… to get furnace oil for our power generation the country is having load shedding, there’s no electricity here for 14 to 15 hours a day, 18 hours in the rural areas. That means that farmers can’t run their, er, the tubers to water their crops; that means that factories and industries are closing down; that means there’s massive unemployment, on top of inflation. So, that’s one aspect of corruption . The second is that most of this money ends up in Swiss bank accounts. Most of our top… almost… I am the only political leader who made his money outside Pakistan, and I have everything in Pakistan and in my name. Apart from me, all political leaders, heads of political parties, they’ve bank accounts abroad, they’ve properties abroad and it’s not declared, so this money, most of this money ends up outside the country.

[12:12:28.08]
JA:
Yeah, and every time… every time Pakistani rupees are sent overseas, er, you have to do an exchange, so as a result, the rupee also goes down because of this export of stolen money from Pakistan.

[12:12:42.14]
IK:
Well Julian, it went from… in these four years, it’s gone from 60 rupees to 91 rupees – and, remember, when you lose one rupee it means billions of rupees of debt accumulated because of borrowing in dollars.

[12:13:01.16]
JA:
Ok, this vision you have of Pakistan, if the corruption is not fixed, if there’s not a radical change… Let me start again…

[12:13:16.23]
JA:
Can you describe to me the five big power groups in Pakistan? What is… what is that sound in the background?

IK:
Five big power groups, what do you mean?

JA:
Sorry, there was just a bit of echo. It’s going now.

[12:13:37.23]
JA:
Imran, can you describe what are the big power factions in Pakistan? Is it the ICI, the Army? Is it the Supreme Court, er… the old families? How would you describe the basic power structure of Pakistan?

[12:13:52.15]
IK:
Well, the battle in Pakistan, just like in the Middle East, is of a status quo, an entrenched status quo ‒ what you call the power structure ‒ benefited from the system, and the majority of the population wanted a change. So, what you see in the Middle East is exactly this , whereas the West looks upon Muslim societies as there’s some war going on between fundamentalists and liberals, Islamic fundamentalists/liberals. Actually, this is really the dividing line in the Muslim world, which is why everyone got surprised by the Arab Spring. And Pakistan… the following I have now is the same… are the same people who are coming out in the Middle East, people wanting a change. An anti-status quo movement. Now, what is the status quo in Pakistan, we have political mafias. All the political parties have now got together against me, so here is the main political parties are basically now, um, together on one point: that I should not come into power. So, at the moment there are now… they’ve got this… they do sparring in public, just like they did with the Americans – they play the anti- American card but privately tell the Americans that ‘Look, we are with you’. Same with me, that… they sort of… they make noises against each other, but they have this understanding now that, whatever happens, my party should stay out. So, how it is being reflected, they have all got together in the media and, um, they… not only they make sure that… well, there’s money flowing in the media for various anchors now going against us. I mean, it’s bizarre that the country hasn’t… in four years never has the plight of people of Pakistan been as bad. All the major political parties are in power, either in centre or in the provinces. We are the only party that is not in power, and yet if you look at the media since our big rallies it seems as if we are the criminals who brought the country to this state. It’s because they’ve got together and a lot of money flowing in the media, and secondly, um… they make sure that we don’t get coverage of the media. So, our media coverage has really gone down, and this is through adverts – because they’re a central government and a provincial government movement – huge amount of funds for advertisement, so they have sort of… all of them got together…

[12:16:29.16]
JA:
But this is… this is a good sign Imran, if people are gathering around to oppose you they must be scared.

[12:16:38.08]
IK:
Oh, they’re petrified because the last time in Pakistan we saw rallies as big as the two I took out, one in Lahore and one in Karachi, was 40 years ago by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the father of Benazir. And when that… these sort of numbers turned out he swept the election, he just swept… and he was an underdog and all the status quo parties were blown away so that’s why they’ve all got scared.

[12:17:10.08]
JA:
Let’s move on to the US. Tell me about this assassination of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan. What was the feeling in Pakistan? That the ICI was hiding Osama Bin Laden, that they are incompetent? Why was Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan?

[12:17:32.24]
IK:
Julian, this is a billion dollar question. I do not really know the exact answer, because it seems as if he was being kept there by our agencies – but on the other hand, it makes no sense because here was the Pakistan Army losing… they had lost about 6,000 soldiers; they had been attacked in the GHQ; their commando bases have been attacked; generals have been killed; and, I mean, the sort of… attacks on the Pakistan Army have been unprecedented, so here… it doesn’t make sense that here is the same organisation which is shielding the same guy as people inspired by whom are killing them. So it doesn’t really make sense, and the Army’s stripped to lose the most because, you know, it really hurt the Army. It was too dangerous a game to think that the Army would keep him there and then… um, I mean, the disadvantages of this strategy – if it was a strategy – to have Osama bin Laden and use him against the Americans… I don’t know, the disadvantages are too enormous, so it makes no sense. In my opinion, it is possible that there were… Remember, Julian, what you must understand is that Osama Bin Laden was trained by the ISI and CIA, the whole al-Qaeda were trained by the CIA and the ISI about 20 years back, so this… these people were assets of the Pakistan Army. They were trained by the Pakistan Army and the ISI, financed by the CIA, but they were fighting the Soviets, and for a long time these groups had very close association with the Pakistan secret agencies. Now suddenly comes 9/11 and you do a 180 degrees turn. I mean, Musharraf does a 180 degree turn, but it doesn’t mean that all along the way that people would have accepted this. Because here were people trained for Jihad – Jihad in this case means fighting a foreign occupation – so how were you going to convince them? Having… indoctrinating not only, er, these militant groups but also your own agencies, that they’re fighting foreign occupation as a religious duty, and just now because they are Americans you are supposed to become… call them terrorists. And you might… so it was not easy. I think there were always going to be elements within the secret agencies who would not have accepted this. It’s possible that he was being harboured by people within the agencies…

[12:20:21.20]
JA:
By some subset in the ICI. Some people perhaps who had dealt with him in the past who were still loyal in some manner.

[12:20:30.22]
IK:
Of course, people who would have thought that fighting another foreign occupation, which is now the US, is also religious duty, of course it’s possible.

[12:20:42.10]
JA:
Now how…

[12:20:49.18]
IK:
But I just think that the Army wouldn’t have had this policy because they just stripped to lose too much…

[12:20:55.12]
JA:
We just lost you for a second. I can hear you but you’re not moving. Let me just call you back, see if we get a different video channel. Hang on.

IK:
I can hear you.

JA:
I can hear you but I can’t… you’re frozen. Ok, you’re back now, that’s great. That’s great.

[12:21:17.23]
IK:
All I’m saying is it was too risky for the Army to have actually, um, harboured him. The consequences were always going to be too disastrous for them.

[12:21:31.20]
JA:
Now how did Pakistan view this attack on Osama by the United States – as a continuation of attacks on Pakistani soil by the US? Is there a feeling that the US is helping clean out militants in Pakistan, or is there a feeling that it’s a violation of Pakistani sovereignty?

[12:21:53.19]
IK:
Well, as a Pakistani… and other Pakistanis, for other Pakistanis, this was… this was the ultimate humiliation. Here is a country, which is… at that time had lost about 30,000 people, dead fighting America’s war, and – as I said – the country had lost far more in terms of material losses than the aid given to us, so… – and the government puts the figure to 70 billion dollars, Aid under 20 billion – so therefore here is a country that’s supposed to be sacrificing for the US, and then our ally did not trust us and actually came and killed someone on our own soil. It was that, the two factors combined: a) the sacrifices, and secondly, here is an ally which – are we a friend or an enemy? – so… forget about what the government thought, I’m talking about the people of the country, who didn’t really know what was going on, because, um, was the… as the Army was being accused, the Army might have kept them or…

JA:
Yep, yep.

IK:
…either they were incompetent or in cahoots – but what about the people? So it… there was… if anything there was a very strong reaction born out of a feeling of humiliation.

[12:23:17.12]
JA:
And do you think… you know, that the US argued that Osama Bin Laden is a terrorist responsible for the deaths of many Americans so they have a right to go in and take him out… do you think that ‒ you know, there are a lot of terrorists operating in Pakistan from other countries – er, that those individuals… that the ICI has the right to go into Afghanistan, to go into India or to go into United States to take them out?

[12:23:51.20]
IK:
Um, the problem… Well, you’ve answered the question yourself – would a country… I mean, just imagine Australia or Britain. Here you are, helping France to – you know, fighting their war and whatever – and you lose so many people and then France does not trust you and comes to kill a terrorist in your country. Imagine the reaction it would have, so the reaction was similar. All I’m saying is that War on Terror is not… somehow the confusion is that you win a War on Terror by bombs and, you know, killing people – actually, War on Terror is won when you win hearts and minds of people. If you lose that war, there is no way this is going to end. I mean, Pakistan is more radicalised today than it was eight years back. Pakistan is more polarised today – it’s a polarised society – than it was eight years back. We have more fear of militants today than ever before; 140,000 Pakistani soldiers are stuck on our western borders along with Afghanistan, er – the situation is not that we are winning the war, our Army’s stuck there – and the Army Chief told us politicians in a briefing that the moment they withdraw the militants will come back. So I don’t know what we’ll gain out of this. My… my fear is that the US could leave Afghanistan in a bigger mess than when it took over… when it sent the forces in. And my fear is that unless this is handled properly it is conceivable that you could actually have a more radical set-up in Afghanistan than the one they replaced.

[12:25:41.19]
JA:
What about the future for Pakistan if there’s not a reform movement that comes into power and this dynamic between the United States, Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Taliban – if that doesn’t change, if it keeps going in the direction that it is going, um, what do you see as the pessimistic scenario for Pakistan?

[12:26:05.17]
IK:
Pakistan has to get out of this war as quickly as possible. We are all losing the war, and what’s more Pakistan is heading to a… it’s already financially bankrupt… this war, according to the government – and I’m quoting the government figures – in the last four years the country has lost 50 billion dollars. Er, there is total devastation of the entire Tribal Belt, and who wants to come and invest in Pakistan when there’s fear of terrorism? Cricket teams don’t come to Pakistan, haven’t come for four years, because of the threat of terrorism, so the investor is even more scared than cricketers, so you can imagine the situation in the country right now. Um, we have to get out of this war, we have to start a truth and reconciliation with our own people, er, win the people back – I’m talking about the tribal people where all the fighting is going on – win them over to our side with a truth and reconciliation, isolate the real ideological people… You know, a lot of people are fighting because of reaction; there’s a tiny lot which is ideological, you know, which wants to sort of… have some sort of Islamic republic – it’s a tiny lot. The majority are fighting in reaction; they have to be won over to our side, and then, even with these people, you can hold dialogue – but whatever we do, military is not a solution. We have failed for eight years, the Americans have failed for eleven years. What are we going to do now which is different? And, as Einsteinsaid, madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. It’s not going to happen, there’s no military solution, the only way is a political solution. Pakistan can play a part in the political solution once it gets a credible, er… democratic government here after elections. At the moment this government is incapable, because they’ve basically given Army the responsibility of dealing with the War on Terror and, as we know, the Army is not equipped to help in bringing in a political settlement. Army… this is not the Army’s domain and the… we do not have politicians who are capable or credible enough, so you need elections, a credible government – hopefully, us – we’ll start a political dialogue, help the Americans in an exit strategy from Afghanistan. This is the only way out of this.

[12:28:48.21]
JA:
Imran, we discovered a cable [09ISLAMABAD1642] in 2009 from the Islamabad Embassy. Prime Minister Gilani and Interior Minister Malik went into the embassy and offered to share NADRA – and NADRA is the national data and registration agency database. The system is currently connected through passport data but the government of Pakistan is adding voice and facial recognition capability and has installed a pilot biometric system as the Chennai border crossing, where 30,000 to 35,000 people cross each day. This NADRA system, that is the voting record system for all voters in Pakistan, and a front company was set up in the United Kingdom – International Identity Services, which was hired as the consultants for NADRA to squirrel out the NADRA data for all of Pakistan. What do you think about that? Is that a…? It seems to me that that is a theft of some national treasure of Pakistan, the entire Pakistani database registry of its people.

[12:30:19.08]
IK:
Julian, it’s so shameful. You know, never has a country’s ruling elite, for personal benefits, never have they betrayed their people as much as this elite under Musharraf and the current elite. Not only have they done this, there have been countless numbers of people who have disappeared in Pakistan on suspicion of terrorism. There were Pakistanis, or people from Pakistani soil, handed over to the Americans on mere suspicion of… of them being involved in some terrorism – and people have disappeared, people are eliminated, suspects are eliminated through drone attacks… um, and not only suspects, their wives, their children, their neighbours are eliminated. Never has there been any enquiry into were these people innocent or not. No country has ever been bombed by its own ally, as we have been bombed in this country. Um, as I said, it’s the most shameful period of our history. Never has a country’s ruling elite betrayed its people so much as this current ruling elite – and for personal benefits, because all of them have bank accounts abroad, they have money lying abroad – and guess what? ‒ the Americans know all about the accounts. They’re illegal, money siphoned off from here.

[12:31:42.14]
JA:
How would you reconfigure the Pakistan relationship with the United States? Would it be a complete severance? What would you… you would permit drone strikes? what kind of intelligence co-operation? What would you do in practice?

[12:32:01.18]
IK:
Have a relationship based on dignity/self-respect. So, it should be a relationship like the US has with India. It should not be a relationship of a client/master relationship, and even worse here, Pakistan as a hired gun, being paid to kill America’s enemies. It’s not… it’s a relationship that has failed. It’s neither delivered to the people of Pakistan nor has it delivered to the Americans. The Americans are very unhappy with the Pakistan government because they haven’t delivered, and they can’t deliver. So, the time has come… either the US should have a relationship like it has with India based on dignity/self-respect and, um, Pakistan should no longer…never… If ever there’s a case of not accepting aid from a country because in the end it cost too much, is…is… what has happened to us in the last eight years. We should not accept any… no aid… stand on our own feet, no matter what it takes – and that’s the only way you have dignity – and not allow any interference in Pakistani affairs. So, the War on Terror should be… Pakistan should own it, we should deal with it in our own way. Er, the only thing that the Americans should be told is that ‘Look, there will be no terrorism from our side’, but you can only do that if you no longer perceived to be a stooge of the Americans. Only a sovereign credible government can then deal with terrorism. At the moment, the terrorists or the militants have declared Jihad against Pakistan government, so they are killing our soldiers and our police guys, saying that these are collaborators of the Americans. So the moment you pull out of this war, this Jihad goes; the moment the Jihad goes, we then can start sifting who the real enemy is within our borders, and then only can we guarantee that there will be no terrorism from our side. So therefore, number one step has to be pull out of this war, no more aid. We become a sovereign independent state and the relationship with the US should be of dignity and self-respect, no longer of a client/master relationship.

[12:34:20.17]
JA:
Can you speak a bit about these drone rallies last year? A hundred thousand people came to one of these rallies, and there were two teenage young men who left the rally and ended up themselves within a week in a drone strike.

[12:34:44.15]
IK:
Well, I mean, just think about it Julian, um, these drone attacks violate all humanitarian laws. Which law allows you to be judge, jury and executioner? And this on information which could be flawed? They have these spies roaming around there, who then just send them a message that ‘Look, here are some militants’ – bear in mind that every man in the Tribal Area is armed. It’s the only… it’s the most unique place on Earth, where every man is a warrior, carries a gun – and this is for time immemorial. People have always carried weapons.

[12:35:27.03]
JA:
And there’s about a million people in this region.

[12:35:30.20]
IK:
There are about six million people, and you would say at least a hundred, er… a million armed men there – a million armed men, which is why I keep saying that you win them over to your side, you win the war. You keep making them enemies, it’s an never-ending war. Anyway, so – on suspicion – they have these spies who then tell them that ‘Look, there are these militants there’. On that information, which might or might not be accurate, they bomb people – so marriage ceremonies have been bombed, so many innocent people have been killed through these drone attacks, and all it does is it creates more resentment against the Americans and helps the militants. And the WikiLeaks said that the ambassador, Ann Patterson – the American ambassador – in WikiLeaks said this is counter-productive. These drone attacks are counter-productive.

[12:36:22.04]
JA:
Why do you think the US – you know, you give a good description of how the War on Terror in Pakistan is being counter-productive; it’s created enmity towards the Pakistani government; 35,000 to 45,000 Pakistanis have lost their lives – why do you think the United States pursues its agenda, its drone strikes in Pakistan, if the US ambassador even is writing back saying that it’s counter-productive? What is the driving forces from the US?

[12:36:55.01]
IK:
Well Julian, I think it is because the… because, just like us, the policy in the US is being driven by Pentagon. It’s the… it’s the Army people who are driving this policy, because only military people always think of military solutions. If you look at Vietnam and you listen to, I think, was it General McNamara or someone? I just remember a long time ago, I mean, them also saying way back in the late 60s that ‘We’ve turned the corner, we’re about to win the war, a few more men, a few more bombing and this will do the trick’… so generals always think like that, and I’m afraid, er, President Obama er is being… this war is being driven by generals – and also fear… that if he pulls out, or he does it too quickly, he will be blamed for… er, you know, as a losing President, or if some sort of terrorist attack takes place in the US then they will say ‘Oh well, we didn’t finish the job there’, or something like that. It’s driven on fear, and that’s why they are carrying on this insane policy. Because, clearly, these people are being replaced – whoever they kill are being replaced, because if there’s enough hatred against the Americans… And look at… look what’s happening in Afghanistan. I mean, the soldiers… the army they are building up… there are about 40 attacks with the soldiers, trained by the Americans, are actually turning the guns on them and killing them. And there’s the Qur’an burning, then this… the soldier who went in and killed 17 people. I mean, the hatred against the Americans is growing, so how… they’re losing the war if the battle for hearts and minds is being lost – and it is being lost – so therefore can only assume that it’s generals who are running the show because if they were politicians they would be looking for political solutions – but I don’t think the politicians in the US have an accurate idea of what is happening, er, in either Pakistan’s Tribal Area or in Afghanistan.

[12:39:04.20]
JA:
Imran, you have been viewed in the past 15 years as incorruptible. You have some personal wealth from your cricket career, um, you don’t have favours that you owe anyone to that degree, but as your party grows at such tremendous speed and you have to incorporate new people, won’t you inevitably end up like the Congress Party in India, where you have a figure who’s viewed to be incorruptible – the Prime Minister, Singh – but nonetheless his party including so many people… itself is corrupt?

[12:39:46.15]
IK:
You see, Julian, in India they have two problems. Number one is that it’s such a big country and there’s so many political parties and they need coalitions to form government. When you have coalitions, um, I’m afraid you are always going to be a weak government – if there are corrupt people in the coalitions you’ve just got to look the other way if you want to form government. Um, and secondly, the problem is that Manmohan Singh is not the leader, er, the real power lies with Sonia Gandhi, and in this case he just cannot have the strength of a leader who then takes on corruption. A much better example is what’s happening in Turkey, the prime minister there has begun the two things – not only did he take on the corrupt mafias, number two he’s actually put the Army in its place, whereas the Army, like in Pakistan, kept interfering in the politics, but through the moral authority which he had and being a general leader… he’s managed to serve up the impossible

[12:41:05.18]
IK:
… I mean, Turkey is now the fastest-growing country after China. So, it can happen in Pakistan because a) the country in some ways, unlike India, is much more manageable if one party comes into power – and there have been one parties who’ve come into power without coalitions – so the problem is that the leadership has been totally corrupt, so they have, once the leader is corrupt, as the Chinese say ‘a fish rots from the top’. In our case, if we come into power there’s no way we’re going to have an alliance with any party that is headed by crooks – no way – I’d much rather sit in the opposition. We’re clear on that. Secondly, if we have clear majority, er, you know, no matter who joins, we have already announced that no one will be awarded a party ticket until he declares his assets, his or her assets, and then these assets will be put on a website. So, this is never done before and therefore, anyone can tell you, then this automatically excludes a lot of crooks. I mean, people are petrified to declare their assets here, so we have laid stringent, er, requirements for our candidates.

[12:42:14.14]
JA:
And, in terms of, you know, if you see corruption developing in the party, does PTI have an investigative committee, does it have disciplinary committees to try and weed out those people who are corrupt? I mean, if we look at Benazir Bhutto and her husband, um, these are extremely skilled operators. I mean, we can’t doubt their cunning in any way. Will PTI, and its senior management and its leader, be able to spot those very cunning and manipulative people?

[12:43:00.09]
IK:
Well, two things: number one, yes, we have a scrutiny committee headed by a judge, one of the most respected judges and one of the most senior lawyers – they’ll head our scrutiny committee, so any worries will go to them, and then we’ll beef with them up with sort of… a lot of stuff. Secondly, the reason why Benazir and Asif Zardari could get away… is because the person who was supposed to hold them accountable was equally, if not more corrupt than them. I mean, according to Musharraf, Benazir had around about… and Zardari… had two billion dollars lying outside. Nawaz Sharif, who was supposed to hold them accountable, has three billion dollars property and money lying outside

JA:
Yeah, yeah…

IK:
… so how is he going to hold them accountable? Um, you cannot… if you’re not clean yourself you cannot hold accountability in a country.

[12:43:58.08]
JA:
Imran, speak to me about the positive picture for Pakistan. You mentioned before that Turkey and the leadership of Erdogan is a possible model. What do you see economically, politically, as the bright future for Pakistan in its region?

[12:44:15.11]
IK:
Let me tell you, Julian, I think this country… in 60s Pakistan was the fastest-growing country in the entire Third World. South Koreans came to take Pakistan’s model of growth, then Malaysia came… they used to send people to study our model. I mean, this country was, um, there was a book written called The Asian Miracle by a Nobel Prize winner called Gunnar Myrdal in mid-60s where he predicted that this country would be the California of Asia. So, I mean, the reason why we’re where we are right now is… one thing is governance, and corruption is related to when your governance collapse, you have corruption, um, and secondly, not developing human resources, not spending money on human

[12:45:12.04]
IK:
…Pakistan… Fifty per cent of Pakistanis are below 25, seventy per cent of Pakistanis are below the age of 30 – now, this youth population, this could propel this country into… into a zone, a growth zone way beyond China. Er, we have all the ingredients of the country that can take off. We have a fertile land, we have – this was the bread basket for the whole of India – we have huge mineral reserves in copper, in gold, in gas. Gold reserves – Pakistan’s gold reserves – the amount of energy we can get is Saudi Arabia and Iraq put together. So, this country is sitting on, you know, where it could easily take off. And our biggest resource are overseas Pakistanis so 6 million Pakistanis overseas with… our best human capital is lying outside, and their GDP is more than 180 million Pakistanis. And then we’ve got China – sits as a neighbour with surplus capital. All we’ve got to do is fix our governance system and then pour in money into our human resources. We have a potential of taking off, because this area’s… – look at India taking off one side, China there… Pakistan is sitting on a strategic place where we have excess, we have energy reserves in Iran, we have central Asia, we have India on one side, China, and the country can take off. The problem is no… the reason why the Third World is Third World is because of a corrupt ruling elite which keeps siphoning money…

JA:
Yeah, yeah…

IK:
… out of the country and poor governance.

[12:46:59.15]
JA:
One final question, Imran, have you met A.Q. Khan, and what do you think about the father of the Pakistani nuclear bomb?

[12:47:15.21]
IK:
I have met A.Q. Khan, you know, not recently but a couple of years back, but I’ve known him for 20 years because he gave the first donation to… when I started building the cancer hospital he was the one that came forward first. He is a hero… he’s hero-worshipped in Pakistan because Pakistanis look upon him as someone who gave us security. In other words, the same reason given by the Israelis – that they needed the bomb because they’re surrounded by hostile neighbours, it’s the same in Pakistan, we fought three wars with India, which is seven times the size of Pakistan and there is a lot of insecurity in the country, and this is the guy who’s supposed to have secured us – so from that point of view he is hero-worshiped in Pakistan. Um, what I think of him, I don’t really know. Was he involved in this proliferation or not? There are two points of view: one, er you know, by the Americans and Musharraf, the other A.Q. Khan himself, saying that ‘Look, I’m ready to, er, give all evidence that I never was involved in this’. Now, I don’t really know, he admitted on television that he was involved in it, but he said he was forced by Musharraf to do that, so I don’t really know the truth behind it, Julian. Personally, I’m anti-nuclear… I’m totally, er… for a world where… which has no nuclear bombs, er… but at the moment, the way the situation is, er, people will argue here that ever since we’ve had wide… nuclear weapons, even though there’s been a lot of tension – we’ve come close – but there has been no war between Pakistan and India. And before the nuclear weapon, there were three wars…

JA:
Yeah.

IK:
… so people will argue from that point of view.

[12:49:10.10]
JA:
Ok, Imran thank you very much. Any further words from you? Anything that I’ve missed?

[12:49:16.20]
IK:
No Julian, thank you and I wish you all the best because I think you have done a great thing. What you did with WikiLeaks, you know, freedom of information is the most important thing because we are basically controlled by people withholding information – and this is really a power – and, as I’ve said, I’m the biggest beneficiary in this country. It’s only because we were allowed freedom of information and television, allowed to express my views

these mafias would have just controlled information, and people like me would never had a chance of coming to power in Pakistan, so thank you and all the best.

[12:49:56.13]
JA:
Thank you, Imran. Good luck.

 

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