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Pakistan’s ex-PM Imran Khan says he tried to improve strained ties with India during his tenure

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Pakistan’s ex-PM Imran Khan says he tried to improve strained ties with India during his tenur

LAHORE: Pakistan’s ousted prime minister Imran Khan on Monday said he wanted to improve strained relations with India during his tenure but the revocation of Kashmir’s special status became a “hurdle.” Khan, the 70-year-old former cricketer-turned-politician, also said that then Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa was even more inclined to have better ties with India.

“I wanted to improve relations with India during my three-and-a-half year tenure but the RSS ideology and revocation of (Jammu and Kashmir) special status became a hurdle,” the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party chairman said during his interaction with a group of foreign journalists at his Zaman Park residence here.

Khan said after India revoked Kashmir’s status in 2019 his government did not push for talks. “We wanted India to reverse its decision first and hold peace talks,” he said.

Responding to a question from the Press Trust of India (PTI) about who was running foreign policy towards India during his tenure, he or then Gen Bajwa, Khan replied: “I was the boss…I was running the foreign policy. However, let me tell you that Gen Bajwa was even more inclined to have better ties with India.” Khan recently said he did not have the power during his tenure as Gen Bajwa was the man who was calling the shots.

When reminded that he had expressed his wish ahead of elections in India that Narendra Modi should win and as he would resolve the Kashmir issue, Khan said: “I still believe that a leader from the right-wing party can resolve a conflict. Modi was from the right-wing party which was why I wanted him to return to power and resolve the Kashmir issue. The right-wing party in a country opposes resolution of any such issue.” Relations between India and Pakistan have often been strained over the Kashmir issue and cross-border terrorism emanating from Pakistan.

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However, the ties between the two countries nosedived after India abrogated Article 370 of the Constitution, revoking the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcating the State into two Union Territories on August 5, 2019.

Khan also launched a scathing criticism of Gen Bajwa who retired late last month.

“Gen Bajwa unleashed a reign of terror on us during the last seven months as our leaders were brutally tortured (at his behest). Gen Bajwa is also responsible for economic disaster in the country,” he alleged.

When asked who was responsible for ousting him from power – the US or Gen Bajwa – Khan said: “Gen Bajwa was mainly responsible for sending my government home despite we were performing well on the economic front. He wanted to give NRO (favour) to the thieves — Sharifs and Zardaris — that was why he conspired against my government. The role of the US should be determined through investigation of a cypher in this respect by a judicial commission.” Earlier, Khan had blamed the US for conspiring to oust him from power, a charge denied by Washington.

Khan also raised an alarm about the Afghan conflict.

“Currently, no one at the helm knows how to handle the Afghan situation. Pakistan cannot afford conflict with Afghanistan. Our foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari must go to Afghanistan instead of roaming around in the world as it is a very serious matter,” he added.

The attacks at the border have strained relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers in recent months. Pakistan and Afghanistan share a 2,600-km volatile border.

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Earlier this month, Pakistan’s Embassy in Kabul came under gunfire in an attack that was later claimed by the Islamic State group. Pakistani officials at the time had called the incident an attack on its envoy there. Islamabad also has said Afghanistan’s rulers are sheltering militants who carry out deadly attacks on its soil.–(PTI)

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