Islamabad: Former Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan has signalled his readiness to mend ties with the United States after repeatedly accusing Washington of conspiring to remove him from power in April.
“As far as I’m concerned, it’s over, it’s behind me. The Pakistan I want to lead must have good relationships with everyone, especially the United States,” he said in an interview.
While he expressed a willingness to work with the US if he is re-elected and said he wants a “dignified” relationship with the US, the 70-year-old also criticised Pakistan’s relationship with the US. “Our relationship with the US has been as of a master-servant relationship, or a master-slave relationship, and we’ve been used like a hired gun. But for that I blame my own governments more than the US,” he said.
Commenting on Khan’s remarks, a US State Department spokesperson said that the United States values its “long-standing cooperation with Pakistan and has always viewed a prosperous and democratic Pakistan as critical” to US interests.
“We will not let propaganda, misinformation, and disinformation get in the way of any bilateral relationship, including our valued bilateral partnership with Pakistan,” the spokesperson said.
Khan was removed as prime minister in April following a vote of no confidence in parliament, which he has since blamed on a US-led foreign conspiracy that also involved Pakistan’s powerful military establishment and his political rivals. He has never provided any evidence to back his allegations. Islamabad and Washington have denied the charges.
The gloves are off
On November 3, Khan was shot and wounded in the leg in Wazirabad city, in the eastern province of Punjab, while leading a protest march on the capital to demand early elections. The current National Assembly’s term ends in October 2023.
The long march, which began on October 28 from Lahore, resumed after the shooting, and Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party is on its way to Islamabad. While he is unable to physically attend, he addresses his supporters every evening.
Shortly after being injured in the firing, Khan said that early elections were the only way to restore political stability and warned of growing economic upheaval if they aren’t held soon. His popularity has often surged because of his anti-Washington rhetoric, but Khan’s walking back the US conspiracy theory was inevitable, said analyst Mosharraf Zaidi from the Tabadlab think-tank in Islamabad. It was not the first time that Khan used a populist trope “he knows to be untrue to excite his base”, Zaidi said.