By Ali A. Jenabzadeh

Public in Pakistan don’t want the U.S. bases in their territory: journalist

August 6, 2021 - 11:12

TEHRAN – A Pakistani journalist says the public in his country oppose hosting U.S. bases.

“Public in Pakistan doesn’t want the U.S. bases here,” Imdad Hussain tells the Tehran Times.

The experience of Pakistan as a country that collaborated with former U.S. President George W. Bush to invade Afghanistan proved costly. The extremists took the cooperation as a pretext to do many terrorist activities. 

“After that Pakistan was dragged into regional conflicts and the result was long and massive terror acts in Pakistan which is no secret,” Hussain laments.

Prime Minister Imran Khan has ruled out hosting American bases in Pakistan for military action in Afghanistan, fearing it might lead to his country being "targeted in revenge attacks" by the Taliban.

In an opinion piece in The Washington Post ahead of U.S. President Joe Biden's meeting with top Afghan leaders at the White House last month, Khan also questioned the efficacy of such U.S. bases in Pakistan.

 “Extremist elements found a pretext to launch a war against Pakistan.  Finally, since long PTI chief Imran Khan was opposing such arrangements and he has been telling his voters to not go into wars for others,” the journalist explains.
Following is the text of the interview:

Q: What are the repercussions of U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan?

A: Obviously it immediately created a mess in Afghanistan, and also some misunderstanding among regional countries as basing games among Pakistan, Afghanistan and India.  Announcing the deadline for withdrawal boosted the Taliban’s morale that can encourage them to set inflexible demands while negotiating peace with Kabul. The immediate withdrawal has triggered uncertainty and there are concerns that such a situation could prolong instability in the country and the region.  

Q:  Pakistan’s prime minister has said his country won’t host American bases. What are the main reasons for such a policy shift while Pakistan collaborated with the Bush administration to fight the Taliban and al-Qaeda when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001?

A: Pakistan has shifted its policies from geo-strategic into geo-economics that is what the regional countries including Kabul do not understand. For Pakistan geopolitics bears no fruit now. No group in Afghanistan is important for Pakistan. Stability and peace are important for it. It wants access to Central Asia and beyond now, it needs routes through Afghanistan and hence all groups or all Afghans are important for Pakistan now. Islamabad wants to not go against anyone in Afghanistan to encourage local cooperation for its project. And the American bases mean the beginning of new controversy at home and abroad. 

Nevertheless, as far as the statement of Imran Khan is concerned, it is controversial.  

 First of all, there is no evidence that the U.S. has made any such request and secondly the prime minister might have said it for political scoring. Yet at the moment there is a government in Pakistan that cannot afford to go against public opinion. The public in Pakistan doesn’t want the U.S. bases here. 

But the experience of Pakistan with such arrangements (as you mentioned cooperation with the Bush administration when Pakistan was being ruled by a military ruler) is not a good one. After that Pakistan was dragged into regional conflicts and the result was long and massive terror acts in Pakistan which is no secret. Extremist elements found a pretext to launch a war against Pakistan.  Finally, since long PTI chief Imran Khan was opposing such arrangements and he has been telling his voters to not go into wars for others. If he doesn’t say things like “absolutely not” then he might lose voters forever.    

Q: Many are concerned about the exacerbation of violence in Afghanistan after the U.S. withdrawal. Do you think that the Taliban have changed after 20 years of war?
A: The first change should be anti-militancy, they were fighting against their people in the 1990s and they are doing so now. So what has changed? A change would be evident if they shun fight against their own people or Kabul and come to negotiate a settlement in a non-violent way. 

 And even if they want to change something inside their country then they must do it by convincing people instead of imposing something on them. If the will or factor of imposition is still there then nothing has changed. There is a difference between jihad against aggressor and jihad for change and that is why that jihad took many forms and manifestations like jihad bil saif or jihad bil lisan or pen.   

Q: What are the main opportunities for collaboration between Tehran and Islamabad to restore peace in Afghanistan?

A: Fortunately, there is strategic convergence between the two countries. Both of them want stability in Afghanistan and then interconnectivity through the country for economic prosperity.
Tehran has some influence over the Taliban and also over Kabul. They enjoy good relations.  So they can collaborate for convincing Taliban for talks, they can also take part in the economic development of Afghanistan and economic assistance as well.  

Q: Do you think superpowers like China may put themselves at a risk and get involved in the Afghanistan conflict?
A: If the involvement is for peace and development then the risk would not be real. But powers with some political agenda when come to Afghanistan they get entangled in regional conflict that can also involve players beyond the region.
 

Leave a Comment

9 + 3 =