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January 14, 2018

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Trump is ‘bitter pill’ but can meet him if I’m PM: Imran

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan Saturday said meeting US President Donald Trump would be a “bitter pill” to swallow should he become prime minister in elections later this year, but added, “I would meet him.”

In a press briefing reported by Washington Post, Khan, who has an international reputation as a ladies man and at home is seen more as a religious conservative, said he has been a staunch opponent of Pakistan’s participation in the war on terror since it began in 2001 following the 9/11 attacks on the US.

“Pakistan had nothing to do with it,” he said, adding that he supported cooperation with the United States but not co-opting Pakistan’s military into a ground battle with its own people in the tribal regions that border Afghanistan and where Afghan insurgents hide.

Pakistanis are still outraged two weeks after Trump’s New Year’s Day tweet accusing Islamabad of “deceit and lies,” and of taking $33 billion in aid over 15 years while harboring Afghan insurgents, who are attacking American soldiers in neighboring Afghanistan.

Khan said Trump scapegoated Pakistan for the US-led coalition’s failure to defeat the Taliban and bring peace to Afghanistan, and that “it was very insulting of him.”

Should he become Pakistan’s prime minister, Khan said “yes we would talk,” referring to Trump, but added that the US dishonors the memory of thousands of Pakistan’s soldiers who died battling insurgents in its tribal regions, as well as that of tens of thousands of Pakistanis who died in terrorist attacks.

“The way the United States has treated Pakistan as a doormat is not fair,” he said.

Khan referred to Sharif’s family as “a political mafia” that he vowed to defeat at the polls.

It’s still not clear what kind of government Khan envisions for Pakistan. While he praises liberals outside Pakistan as anti-war and committed to humanitarian values and freedom of speech, he rails against Pakistani liberals, chastising them for supporting the military operations in the tribal regions.

Khan also raised eyebrows when he announced an electoral alliance with Maulana Sami-ul Haq, a firebrand cleric, whose hard-line Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary taught several of Afghanistan’s senior Taliban leaders. Haq remains a close ally of Afghanistan’s Taliban.

At the press briefing, Khan said he was committed to “mainstreaming” Pakistan’s tens of thousands of madrassas, or seminaries, which provide the only education for more than 2 million children, many of them among the poorest. The seminaries are often charged with promoting sectarianism.

He said he wants madrassa school graduates to have skills that will allow them to find jobs across all sectors. As it stands, madrassa graduates are ill-equipped to work as anything other than clerics or prayer leaders.

“We will train their teachers to bring them into the mainstream,” he said, without providing details on how that would be accomplished.

Khan has called for early elections, which should be held by July in keeping with the Constitution.

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