Amid tribal, religious and ethnic tensions the security situation in Pakistan remain as volatile as ever.
Peace talks with the Taliban to end an insurgency that has cost tens of thousands of lives have recently broken down.
Imran Khan, the ex-international cricketer and dominant political figure in the restive Pakhtunkhwa province in the north of the country has been at the forefront of efforts to find a peaceful end to this crisis. However, his detractors say he is soft on the Taliban.
He spoke to Isabel Kumar in the Global Conversation. She also put euronews viewers’ questions to him, sent via social media.
Isabelle Kumar: “There has been a military operation against the Taliban with the end of peace efforts – marking an end to those peace efforts – after the Taliban admitted that they had the insurgency, to the extremism.”
Isabelle Kumar: “So you don’t support this operation at the moment?”
Imran Khan: “I believe that once the dialogue process was exhausted, then only should operations be a last resort. We have never had a proper dialogue in Pakistan ever between the political government and the Taliban. This was the first effort and this was doomed to failure because there are about 50 Taliban groups, there are some groups not interested in peace. So the moment the peace talks started, these acts of terrorism escalated.”
Isabelle Kumar: “So how can you negotiate with them then? How can you have these peace talks?”
Imran Khan: “Because the majority of the groups are interested in peace talks. So the whole idea was to isolate the ones who are not interested in peace talks from the ones who are interested. If you are 50 groups, surely the war could be won if you can divide them and isolate the real hard liners. At least get the large ones on your side and there was every indication that some of the large groups were willing to talk.”
*Isabelle Kumar:*We’ve asked our online audience to send us questions and we’ve had quite a big response; we’ve received this question from someone who goes by the name of Imran Khan. Imran Khan 1984 to be exact. And he has asked: “What is the red line that when crossed will result in your support for a military operation?”. So, when will you be satisfied that the peace talks have been exhausted?”
Imran Khan: “There is no military solution, neither in Afghanistan or Pakistan. In Pakistan the majority of the groups are talking. So this process hasn’t even started. There were only two parleys between the negotiators and then these terrorist acts happen to sabotage these talks. Now, in my opinion these people should have been isolated – the ones who sabotaged the talks – and there should be an operation against them. But if you go… if we go for a full scale north Waziristan operation… there are 700,000 civilians that are endangered. They are going to bomb them through the air force, through helicopters, gunships, artillery. Women and children are going to be killed, people will seek revenge. In my opinion it will accentuate, exacerbate the situation. We will have more terrorism.”
Isabelle Kumar: “Why didn’t you take part in those talks?. You had the opportunity to do so. This was also a question we received from Adil Ishaque Abbasi on Twitter, he said why did you keep yourself out of the dialogue? This would have added weight to the process.”
Imran Khan: “At first, we already represented… my, our party, is represented in the talks Rustam Shah Mohmand is….”
Isabelle Kumar: “But I think the point that you have more weight is an important one…”
Imran Khan: “No,no,no. Let me explain. The Taliban wanted me to represent them. How can I represent the Taliban? There are 50 groups, how can I vouch for them? So there was no question of me representing them.”
Isabelle Kuma:r “It wasn’t a question that you were concerned about your image, about this fact that you’re called Taliban Khan? That you weren’t worried about that?”
Imran Khan: “I mean, I didn’t know them, I don’t know what they stand for, so therefore we had our representative in the committee, and actually the talks were going well until one of the Taliban groups sabotaged them by killing these soldiers.”
Isabelle Kumar: “So, should they have just carried on? You think they should’ve just carried on regardless?”
Imran Khan: “Yes, isolate the groups that are not willing to talk. So why not go against those Taliban who are responsible, who took responsibility for the killing of the 23 soldiers? Why not go after them?”
Isabelle Kumar: “Is that not what the military is doing at the moment?”
Imran Khan: “No. They are going to north Waziristan… this (attack) was done by the Momand Taliban which is a different agency all together. So they are already now bombing in north Waziristan and my fear is that this will actually lead to more violence.”
Isabelle Kumar: “Ok, you’ve also said, and correct me if I’m wrong, that if the Pakistani government was to withdraw its support for the US war on terror, was to stop