WASHINGTON: Pakistan’s former prime minister Imran Khan has condemned the attack on Salman Rushdie, describing it as “terrible” and “sad”, and said that while the anger of the Islamic world at Rushdie’s book The Satanic Verses was understandable, it could not justify the assault, The Guardian reported.
Khan also said he expected Afghan women to “assert their rights” in the face of Taliban restrictions in a Guardian interview in which he sought to moderate his reputation as a firebrand.
He is fighting for his political survival after being ousted from office in April. Khan says his staff and followers are being persecuted and intimidated and he is battling eight-year-old charges of illicit campaign financing that could lead to him being banned from politics.
Ten years ago, Khan pulled out of an event in India because Rushdie would also be appearing and the two men exchanged insults, but Khan does not appear to have expressed support for violent action against the Indian-born author. His denunciation of the attack is striking, however, in a region where most politicians have ducked comment. Asked for his response to the knife attack in New York state that left Rushdie badly wounded, Khan said: “I think it’s terrible, sad. “Rushdie understood that because he came from a Muslim family. He knows the love, respect and reverence of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) that lives in our hearts. He knew that,” Khan said. “So the anger I understood, but you can’t justify what happened.”
A year ago, Khan caused consternation in the west and among many Afghans when he welcomed the Taliban’s seizure of power, saying it was “breaking the chains of slavery”. He defended the Taliban’s treatment of women and girls, describing it as a local “cultural norm” and noting: “Every society’s idea of human rights and women’s rights are different.”
One year on, as women remain excluded from the Afghan workforce and girls over 14 are still banned from attending school, Khan however insisted that change had to come from within Afghanistan. “Eventually Afghan women, the Afghan people, will assert their rights. They are strong people,” he said. “But if you push the Taliban from the outside, knowing their mindset, they will just put up defences. They just hate outside interference.”