For the future of Pakistan, the government will not allow armed militias to operate on its soil anymore, Prime Minister Imran Khan told a group of foreign journalists on Tuesday, according to a report published in The New York Times.
“We have decided, for the future of our country—forget the outside pressure—we will not allow armed militias to operate anymore,” the Times quoted the cricketer-turned-politician as saying. “The Pakistan Army created them… there is no use for these groups anymore,” he added, referring to the 1980s when Pakistan supported insurgents fighting Soviet forces in Afghanistan.
Referring to the most recent crackdown on militant groups based in Pakistan, Khan told the journalists that the latest initiative would be all-encompassing, including plans to send 200,000 teachers to madrassas to teach secular subjects such as English and math. When asked whether he or the country’s military establishment controls Pakistan, Khan told the journalists “they work closely.”
On India—New Delhi and Islamabad nearly went to war in February after a Pakistan-based militant group claimed responsibility for an attack on Indian soldiers in India-Occupied Kashmir that was perpetrated by a local separatist—Khan expressed alarm. “India used to be ‘a very open society,’” the New York Times quoted the P.M. as saying. “I never thought that I would see what is happening in India right now. Muslim-ness is being attacked.”
Khan won global praise for his measured response to India and efforts to de-escalate the conflict. “They hit our trees, so we thought we’d hit their stones,” he said of the tit-for-tat airstrikes following Indian bombing of an empty field in Balakot.
Referring to India’s upcoming general elections, Khan said he believed the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government might be the best option to settle the Kashmir conflict. “We have more chance for peace,” he said, claiming rightwing Hindus would support Modi in achieving it.
The prime minister blamed Pakistan’s economic problems, eight months into his government’s tenure, on his predecessors, especially the Sharif family. “You can’t have the ruling elite siphoning off money and taking it abroad,” he told the Times. “If you don’t hold them accountable, the country has no future.” However, he vowed that his foremost priority remained taking 100 million Pakistanis out of poverty.