Past is gone, Imran Khan hints at mending ties with US on dignified terms

Past is gone, Imran Khan hints at mending ties with US on dignified terms

PTI Chairman and former prime minister Imran Khan said he wants to mend relations with the US despite accusing it of treating Pakistan as a “slave”, signalling a desire to work with Washington after claiming it conspired to remove him as prime minister a few months ago.

In an interview with the Financial Times following an assassination attempt this month, Imran Khan said he no longer “blamed” the US and wants a “dignified” relationship if re-elected.

He also warned that Pakistan was close to default and criticised the country’s IMF programme.

The former cricketer was ousted in April in a no-confidence vote he claims was the result of a conspiracy between prime minister Shehbaz Sharif and the US, a top security partner to Pakistan that has provided the country with billions of dollars in military aid.

Many analysts believe that Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) is the most likely winner of a general election that has to be held by next year, following a surge in his popularity thanks in part to his anti-American rhetoric.

“As far as I’m concerned it’s over, it’s behind me,” he said of the alleged conspiracy, which both Sharif and the US deny.

“The Pakistan I want to lead must have good relationships with everyone, especially the United States. “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.”

A gunman shot Khan multiple times in the leg earlier this month while he was leading a march through the country to force early elections.

The former prime minister, who is walking on a frame while he recovers, claims to have evidence that Sharif plotted alongside senior civilian and military officials to kill him.

Sharif and the other officials all strongly deny the allegations. But the shooting, and Khan’s explosive accusations, have pushed Pakistan deeper into crisis at a time of political and economic upheaval.

Some analysts believe Pakistan, which suffered devastating flooding over the summer, is at risk of defaulting on its more than $100 billion in foreign debt.

Khan criticised Pakistan’s IMF programme, first started under his government in 2019 but revived by Sharif, for pushing austerity measures like higher fuel prices at a time of painful inflation.

“When you contract the economy, and some of the IMF measures make your economy shrink, how are you supposed to pay off your loans, because your loans keep increasing?” he said.

“Consumption has crashed . . . So my question is: How are we going to pay our debts? We are certainly going to head towards default.”