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30,000-40,000 terrorists still present in Pak: Imran Khan

Last updated on: July 24, 2019 19:12 IST

Prime Minister Imran Khan has admitted that about 30,000-40,000 "armed people", who have been trained and fought in some part of Afghanistan or Kashmir, were in Pakistan and accused the previous governments of not telling the truth to the United States about the terror groups operating in the country.

India and Afghanistan accuse Pakistan of providing safe haven to the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani network, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Tayiba and other terror groups, which carry out attacks in the two countries.

Khan, who is on a three-day official visit to the US, also admitted to American lawmakers that successive governments in Pakistan did not tell the truth to the United States, in particular in the last 15 years, that there were 40 different terror groups operating in his country.

"Until we came into power, the governments did not have the political will, because when you talk about militant groups, we still have about 30,000-40,000 armed people who have been trained and fought in some part of Afghanistan or Kashmir," Khan said during his appearance at the US Institute of Peace, a US-Congress funded think-tank, on Tuesday.

 

"There was a watershed in Pakistani politics. In 2014, the Pakistani Taliban slaughtered 150 school children at Army Public School (in Peshawar). All the political parties signed the National Action Plan and we all decided after that, that we will not allow any militant groups to operate inside Pakistan," he said.

Khan said it is in the interest of Pakistan that "we do not allow any armed militant groups to operate" in our country.

"We are the first government that has started disarming militant groups. This is the first time it's happening. We've taken over their institutes, their seminaries. We have administrators there," said Khan, whose Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf party formed its first federal government in August last year.

"So it is for the first time in Pakistan that we have decided that there will be no armed militias in our country," he added.

The Khan government has taken control of the Jamat-ud-Dawah and the its charity wing the Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation properties including seminaries and mosques across the country following international pressure built up after the deadly Pulwama attack on February 14.

According to officials, JuD's network includes 300 seminaries and schools, hospitals, a publishing house and ambulance service.

The JuD is believed to be the front organisation for the LeT which is responsible for carrying out the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people, including Americans.

"We were fighting the US war on terror. Pakistan has nothing to do with 9/11 (attack). Al-Qaeda was in Afghanistan. There were no militant Taliban in Pakistan. But we joined the US war. Unfortunately, when things went wrong, where I blame my government, we did not tell the US exactly the truth on the ground," Khan said while speaking at another event later.

Addressing a Capitol Hill reception hosted by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Chairperson of the Congressional Pakistan Caucus, Khan said, "There were 40 different militant groups operating within Pakistan. So Pakistan went through a period where people like us were worried about could we survive it."

"So, while the US expected us to do more and help the US win the war (in Afghanistan), Pakistan at that time was fighting for its own existence," he said.

Part of the reason for this, Khan explained to the lawmakers, was that the Pakistani governments were not in control.

Khan said it was very important that he met President Donald Trump and other top American leaders.

"We have explained to them that the way forward is: number one, the relationship has to be based on mutual trust," he said, adding that he would be honest in telling the US what Pakistan could do in the Afghan peace process.

Khan has said he will reach out to the Taliban to try to convince them to open negotiations with the Afghan government. The Taliban have so far refused to talk directly to the Afghan government.

"So far, we have done pretty well," he said and cautioned the US that the peace process was not going to be easy.

"Do not expect this to be easy, because it is a very complicated situation in Afghanistan. But rest assured, we would be trying our best. The whole country is standing behind me. The Pakistan Army, the security forces, all are behind me. We all have one objective and it is exactly the same objective as the US, which is to have a peaceful solution as quickly as possible in Afghanistan," Khan said.

The Trump administration has intensified its efforts to seek a negotiated settlement of America's longest war in Afghanistan where the US has lost over 2,400 soldiers since late 2001, when it invaded the country after the 9/11 terror attacks.

Imran Khan is "compulsive liar" and terrorists' advocate: Pak Oppn

Prime Minister Imran Khan is a "compulsive liar" and an advocate of terrorists, Pakistan's Opposition parties said on Wednesday, asserting that he tried his best to mislead the international community during his visit to the US.

Reacting to Prime Minister Khan's address to the US think tanks, the Pakistan Peoples Party secretary general Nafisa Shah said in a statement that Khan was regarded as "Taliban Khan without beard" by the victims of terror activities.

"Selected PM Imran Khan is not only corrupt but also an advocate of terrorists," she said.

"Imran Khan should be awarded Goebbels Award for the lies he told with confidence. Lying with confidence comes with practice and Imran Khan has been doing this for decades," she said.

Shah also said Khan tried to mislead the international community whereas the truth is that he has been a pawn in the conspiracies against democracy for the last over 20 years.

"Imran Khan has never been a democrat as he attacked Parliament from outside when he was in the opposition and now from inside when he is in government. Imran Khan lacks tolerance like Taliban. He cannot face any voice of dissent just like Taliban. In an effort to hide his incapacity he is victimising the Opposition," Shah said.

Another main Opposition party the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz president and opposition leader in National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif said Prime Minister Khan had exposed his "dictatorial mindset" by saying the media needed to be controlled in the country.

"In the US Imran Niazi exposed his dictatorial thinking by saying the media needs to be controlled. He is lying saying the media is free under his government while media is suffering from worst kind of censorship," Shehbaz said.

He said Khan had wasted an important opportunity to send a message of unity in his speeches in America.

"Imran Niazi is unable to grow out of his obsession with Nawaz Sharif. He should have talked about Pakistan and challenges that lie ahead but instead he chose to make petty and personal attacks on Nawaz Sharif," he said.

Shehbaz said Khan had again proved that he was the "most unfit person" to hold the office of the prime minister as he was focusing more on gimmicks like riding on buses.

Lalit K Jha
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