One On One: Imran Khan, Chairman Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf
For Newsline’s all-new interactive Q&A series, we are handing over the reins to the public to allow them to interrogate Pakistan’s movers and shakers.
In this first instalment, we put cricketer-cum-philanthropist-cum-politician Imran Khan in the hot seat and asked our online readers to share their questions via Facebook and Twitter. To borrow a favourite PTI term, we got a ‘tsunami’ of a response. Most of the questions were regarding human rights issues and sectarian violence. Others were directed at the blame-game the Chairman has been playing with his political foes. In true by-the-people-for-the-people form, here are the Khan’s replies to your queries.
Abbas Jaffar: Have you dropped the idea of going to North Waziristan to protest against the drone strikes?
No. We are determined to go to Waziristan. It is imperative to show solidarity with the people of the region who have suffered tremendously because of the war and repeated US drone strikes. We want to let them know that the people of Pakistan stand with them.
Naeem M. Ahmed: What do you make of the Taliban’s observations about you? Would you care to define to the Taliban what you mean when you say you are a “liberal,” since they have issues with the term?
I have said it before and I will say it again: A man of faith does not fear death. I am neither a liberal nor a conservative. These categories are irrelevant in our situation. I am a Pakistani nationalist who wants this nation to prosper.
Saad Shah: Once and for all, how do you intend to deal with the Taliban, their violence and their vision of an Islamic state where burning down girls’ schools, flogging women and killing women development workers employed with NGOs is acceptable according to their interpretation of the Shariah?
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf has repeatedly condemned terrorism and we abhor the burning down of schools as well as the floggings and murders. Not only that, Islam is a religion of peace and considers this kind of violence against the basic precepts of this great religion. These terrorists can only be dealt with through the support of the people who live there and who are suffering untold hardships. Military action is not a solution.
Ayesha A: You are prone to giving deadlines. When you say you will end corruption or fix the economy in 90 days, do you have any idea of the colossal task at hand?
Yes, I am aware of the complexity of the task but I am confident that high-level corruption can be finished in much less than 90 days. Why? Because if the PM and the cabinet, the chief ministers and their ministers are not corrupt, high level corruption immediately goes down. In fact, it is eliminated. We would seriously monitor the performance of our people and no corrupt act will be tolerated. If high-level corruption is finished, it sets the tone to reduce corruption at lower levels.
Rubia Farooq: Chaudhary Nisar accuses you of not paying any taxes throughout your career as a cricketer. Did you or didn’t you? How much?
I have publically shown tax returns of the past 30 years many times so these false accusations by Chaudhary Nisar are irrelevant. My tax advisor’s statement is on record and it has been published in the newspapers that I have filed tax returns ever since I started earning money. My tax returns of recent years can be found on the Insaf.pk website. Nisar himself has much to hide and we will reveal his corrupt practices in the near future.
Wajid Majeed Khan: Why are you playing the blame game against Nawaz Sharif? If you have proof against him (other than the Raymond Baker book), why don’t you present it in the court? What is the hurdle?
These people have looted this nation’s money and brought us to the point where we are today. We need to educate the people about this because they have become masters at covering up their dirty tracks. They also take huge advantages of the complexity and indeed the inefficiency of our judicial system.
Cases against the Sharifs and Zardari have been pending for years but no decision has been made yet. The Sharifs are already charged with serious offences and they are in court. There is no need for us to take them there. We only ask that these matters be decided soon. In fact, it is the Sharifs who should go to the courts in the UK against Raymond Baker because he has levelled serious charges against them. The fact that they are not going is, in itself, an admission of guilt.
Syed Schumail: Why do you shake hands with the Jamaat-e-Islami who go and shake hands with the MQM? Is this an indirect romance or a blunder? They support sectarian killings so how can you choose them as your political partners?
We have not yet decided to have any alliance with anybody. Jamaat-e-Islami is an old and established party and it does not support sectarian murders. We are also trying to create an understanding between parties outside the parliament and meeting with JI is a part of that. In the case of MQM, my party indeed has issues with them, but can anyone deny that it is an important political party that represents millions in urban Sindh?
Sher Hakim Khan Khattak: Where did you dispose those suitcases full of evidence against Altaf Hussain that you were bragging would get him out of London?
Whatever evidence I had was submitted to Scotland Yard. It is up to them and the British government now to proceed further.
Maisam Hasnain: Why did you wait so long before making a statement condemning the violence committed against the Hazara people? Even Nawaz Sharif gave a statement condemning these actions almost two months before you did.
This is not true at all. We gave not one, but many statements immediately after all those dastardly acts of violence were committed against the Shia community. The allegation that we ignored violence against the Hazaras is also a total fabrication, indeed a lie. There has been a sustained campaign by our opponents to portray me as anti-Shia. They have even manufactured lies by attributing words to me that I never spoke – all to malign me. Unfortunately, in trying to hurt me they are also fanning sectarianism. Let me state here, unequivocally, that both PTI and I personally abhor sectarian violence of which the greater victim has been the Shia community. I also condemn those who indulge in such acts and make a commitment that our party will make it a high priority to eliminate terrorism and particularly sectarianism. Regarding the Hazara community specifically, it should be remembered that when I was in Quetta I made it a point to go to their Imambargah to express solidarity with them. Have Zardari or Nawaz Sharif done that?
Hamza Masood Raja: How will you take back Karachi from the various mafias and Balochistan from the various insurgents?
Mafias appear when the writ of the state starts to decline or fail. This has happened in Karachi because the police and the administration have been politicised. This trend can only be reversed by depoliticising the police and by making the administration impartial/neutral.
Secondly, the rule of law needs to be established – meaning that everyone will be equal before it, however strong, rich or powerful. That is the only way to bring order in Karachi. Balochistan is different. Over there the people would have to be engaged and their grievances redressed.
Malaiz Chopan-Daud: I am from Afghanistan and my question to you, Mr Khan, is: How do you see the endgame in the Afghan conflict and what would be your top three priorities in dealing with Afghanistan should you become Pakistan’s prime minister?
Firstly, my government would not interfere in the internal affairs of Afghanistan. Secondly, we will build a relationship with all the Afghan people – not just with certain nationalities or linguistic groups – and thirdly, we will improve government-to-government contact to ensure that misunderstandings don’t arise and projects of mutual benefit and trade are given priority. The endgame in Afghanistan has to be such that all communities accept it. A broad-based government representing everyone is the only solution. And of course, the withdrawal of all foreign troops.
Zaka Khan: What will be your policy on the Afghan refugees living in Pakistan? Will you send them back once you come to power? Additionally, what will you do about the law and order situation at the Af-Pak border, especially in Balochistan?
We would not indulge in any coercion. At the same time it must be recognised that a refugee status is a terrible thing. It is rootlessness in the extreme and demoralising for everyone. We hope that things in Afghanistan will settle down and the refugees would want to go back to their homeland. We do not believe in pushing anyone out. Having said that, it must also be recognised that Pakistan has paid a heavy price with the influx of such a large number of refugees.
Rizwan Shigri: What is your stance regarding the status of Gilgit-Baltistan? It is the most ignored state of Pakistan since 1947.
Gilgit-Baltistan has been given something akin to a provincial status. Whatever the legal arrangements, I strongly believe that any dispensation that empowers the people and allows them to take decisions regarding their affairs is a good thing. I hope that a PTI government can lessen this feeling of deprivation in the people of GB. It is indeed a Shangri-la and we must showcase it to the rest of the world through greater development.
Sheza Alqera Atiq: How do you plan on making education free and accessible to all, especially in regions where feudalism still prevails?
PTI will not tolerate any local power centre stopping the people from getting education. Education is transformative and the best means for anyone to change their lives. PTI will give it the highest priority, in terms of resources and attention.
Hamza Masood Raja: How do you plan to deal with the feudal system of Pakistan?
Feudalism has many manifestations and large landed estates are its most egregious form. But it is also ingrained as a mindset. After land reforms in the past and inheritance, the large feudal estates have become less but they still exist in the southern parts of Punjab, Sindh and parts of Balochistan. Land reforms are not the only answer. If they were, feudalism would be finished already. We are considering taxation as a means to make agriculture more productive.
Adil Faruqui: Media Companies owe the government billions in taxes and hundreds of employees their salaries and settlements. FBR is afraid of taking action against them and so is the Supreme Court. Do you have the courage to go up against them? How will you expand the tax net?
We believe in justice and the rule of law. No one is above the law. We will make sure that everyone is accountable. The tax net would be expanded by removing exemptions, by making agricultural income tax work and by reforming the federal and provincial taxation systems.
Sunny Moon: Ninety percent of your old members/office bearers are unable to compete now with big guns who have mountains of money. How will you equalise the effect in decision-making and in internal elections?
This is not true at all. PTI is a mix of the old and the new. Both are an asset. We are now going into intra-party elections – the only serious attempt by a political party to hold internal polls. Once the elected leadership is in place, these issues will disappear.
Ovais Sami: Why don’t you include young speakers of PTI in media discussions?
If you know how the media works, you will also know that it is not entirely up to us to put someone in a talk show. This decision is largely made by the channel and the anchors. We are trying to push young leaders forward and it is happening slowly.
Razaq Chaudry: Chairman Imran Khan, we are members of PTI in the USA, but we don’t we have any proof such as a membership number. All chapters in the US are without elected bodies and we have been hearing for the last seven months that chapter elections will be conducted soon. But when is ‘soon?’ (Razaq Chaudry, PTI MC Nevada)
PTI is conducting party elections in mid-September within Pakistan. Once we are done with the local elections, we will conduct elections for our foreign bodies as well. Incidentally, we have already had party elections in the UK and others will follow.
This interview was originally published in the September issue of Newsline.
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