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News

Imran Khan takes swipe at US president, says Biden is a ‘busy man’

Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan (REUTERS/Saiyna Bashir/File Photo)

By: Chandrashekar Bhat

“HE is a busy man,” Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan has said of Joe Biden, expressing his disappointment over the US president’s reluctance to contact him since coming into office in January this year.

During an interview to CNN on Wednesday (15) from his private Bani Gala residence in Islamabad, Khan admitted that he had not spoken to Biden since the collapse of the Afghan government.

Asked why Biden hadn’t called him since coming into office, the premier curtly said: “He is a busy man” and later said Biden should be asked “why he is too busy to call”.

Khan’s remarks came days after US secretary of state Antony Blinken during a Congressional hearing indicated that Pakistan was involved in harbouring members of the Taliban, including militants of the dreaded Haqqani Network.

“I think you’re very right to point at the role that Pakistan has played throughout the past 20 years and even before it. It is one that has involved hedging its bets constantly about the future of Afghanistan. It’s one that’s involved harbouring members of the Taliban, including the Haqqanis,” Blinken said while responding to a specific question from Democratic Congressman Bill Keating who alleged that Pakistan played an active and by so many accounts a negative role in Afghan affairs for decades.

“It’s one that’s also involved at different points of cooperation with us on counter-terrorism. And so, there are a number of things that have come into play. It has a multiplicity of interests, some that are in clear conflict with ours. When it comes to Afghanistan, it’s focused, of course, as well on India and the role that India is playing in Afghanistan,” Blinken said.

This is not the first time that Khan has expressed his disappointment over Biden’s apparent reluctance to contact him.

During an interaction with foreign journalists at his residence in August, Khan had said he was not really “waiting” for a phone call from Biden.

“I keep hearing that president Biden hasn’t called me. It’s his business. It’s not like I am waiting for any phone call,” he had said in response to a question.

Khan, who had congratulated Biden on his inauguration and expressed his desire to work with the new American administration to deepen bilateral ties, had said Washington saw Pakistan as “useful” only for clearing the “mess” it was leaving behind in Afghanistan after 20 years of fighting and preferred India when it came to forming a “strategic partnership”.

During his interview with CNN, Khan said Pakistan’s relationship with the US is not just dependent on a phone call, it needs to be a multidimensional one.

That’s something, Khan said, he doesn’t feel Pakistan enjoyed during the US’ 20-year war in Afghanistan.

“We (Pakistan) were like a hired gun,” Khan said. “We were supposed to make them (the US) win the war in Afghanistan, which we never could.”

Khan also said he repeatedly warned US officials that America could not achieve its objectives militarily, and would “be stuck there.”

He said the US should have attempted a political settlement with the Taliban from a “position of strength,” at the height of its presence in Afghanistan, not as it was withdrawing.

The US-Pakistan relationship has witnessed ups and downs over the past decade. The ties nose-dived after the US killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden at his hideout in Pakistan in a covert raid in May 2011.

Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump had briefly suspended roughly $1 billion (£730 million) in US security aid to Pakistan and publicly accused Pakistani officials of “lies and deceit” for purportedly providing a base for the Taliban and other militant groups to carry out attacks across the border in Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s national security adviser Moeed Yusuf has also expressed disappointment over Biden’s reluctance to contact Khan despite the US considering Islamabad as an important country in some critical issues like Afghanistan.

Yousuf also said Islamabad has other “options” if the American leader continues to ignore the country’s leadership.

The US State Department, however, had assured Islamabad that Washington recognises Pakistan’s vital role in restoring peace in Afghanistan and wants Islamabad to play that role.

Eastern Eye

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