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Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Imran Khan was ousted in April after three and a half years in office. Since then, he's survived an assassination attempt and drawn massive crowds to rallies where he demands early elections, calls out corruption and points fingers at the powerful Pakistani military for his removal. Khan spoke with Amna Nawaz ahead of another massive march to Islamabad.
Three weeks ago, Pakistan's former Prime Minister Imran Khan survived an assassination attempt, although he was wounded in the leg.
Khan was ousted from office in April of this year after three-and-a-half years in office. Ever since, his PTI populist political party has made significant gains in regional elections, and he draws massive crowds to his rallies, where he demands early elections, calls out corruption, and points fingers at the powerful Pakistani military for his removal.
He spoke with Amna Nawaz this morning, ahead of another massive march to Islamabad on Saturday. She asked him how he is doing since the attack.
Imran Khan, Former Pakistani Prime Minister:
Well, I was very lucky. I had three bullets in my right leg and some shrapnel in my left.
So, the two — the flesh wounds are healing well. But the bone where my bone got cracked by the third bullet, that's causing me a bit of a discomfort. But I expect, in the next two, three weeks, I should be walking, putting weight on my leg.
We should mention the protest march that you have been leading, which should end up at the capital, at your direction, is to call for early elections, which you have been calling for since you were ousted in a no-confidence vote by Parliament back in April.
But there are those that argue that your protests and your disruptions, which have gone on since you were ousted, actually disrupt the political and economic stability of the country. There are scheduled to be elections by next summer, I believe. So why not wait until then and run?
Well, Amna, first of all, none of my activities have been disruptive.
We have public rallies. People come to the rallies. We — what is our democratic and constitutional right? We talk about the injustice that is taking place in this country, where these — this cabal of crooks have been foisted on us. And, secondly, the economy has gone to the ground. Financial markets outside Pakistan and within the country have lost confidence in this government.
And all the economic indicators are going down. So, if they don't hold elections immediately, it doesn't bother my party, because we are gaining all the time. But our worry is that they will leave the country in a leave the country in a state where it will be beyond anyone's control.
On this march, you have mobilized thousands and thousands of people to head towards the capital city.
How worried are you about the possibility of violence once they get to the capital city? And what can you do to stop it, if so?
Amna, I have done almost 60 to 65 rallies since — in the last seven months since I have been out of power. Never has any of my rallies been violent.
The only time there was disruption was when I was — when I — when the assassination attempt took place. Saturday, when we go to Pindi, actually, rather than Islamabad, it will be a completely peaceful protest. The reason why my strength has grown in Pakistan, why the party has got bigger with time is because the government has flopped.
Now, if it goes the whole way, fine, we will wait. My only concern is that, the way things are going, we could be heading toward chaos. I mean economic chaos..
But the experts who look more broadly say that the country's economic dysfunction is not just about any one government. It is systemic.
So, you were in power for three-and-a-half years. What did you do to address those problems while you were in office?
The two parties have been in power in Pakistan for the — for 30 years.
And 30 years, the military governments have been in power. My party came — we only had three-and-a-half years in government. We broke all records of exports in Pakistan, and our tax collection was the highest in our history. So we were heading in the right direction.
You have repeatedly accused the United States of conspiring to remove you from office. You also said America treats Pakistan — quote — "like a slave."
But then, a few days ago, in a recent interview with The Financial Times, you said all of that is — quote — "over. It's behind me." You indicated you would like to have a good relationship with the United States. So, why the U-turn?
Amna, firstly, I mean, it is just a fact that the Pakistan-U.S. relationship has been lopsided.
It is not, for instance, the U.S.-India relationship, which I call a very civilized relationship, a dignified relationship. In Pakistan, we have been — well, the war on terror, we were like a hired gun. And I think it is a very undignified relationship.
If you were to win office, do you believe you could have a good working relationship with the United States?
The United States is a democracy. Democracies accept criticism. Democracies accept other people's point of view.
Master slaves don't. Pakistan's relationship with the U.S. is very important for us. So, just because the regime change, it shouldn't mean that I should have not in future relationship with the U.S. And, yes, I have my right to criticize
What about in neighboring Afghanistan? When the Taliban reclaimed power last year, you seemed to welcome them back into power. They have dramatically curtailed rights for women.
Today marks 429 days since teenage girls were banned from entering classrooms. Were you wrong to support their return to power?
What happens in Afghanistan affects Pakistan. Pakistan needs peace to develop its economy.
And then, if there's peace in Afghanistan, then Pakistan's future of connecting ourselves economically to Central Asia, it can only happen if there is peace in Afghanistan.
But, sir, peace at what cost?
Forty years, people of Afghanistan have suffered.
So, all our interest is peace, whichever government comes. And for the first time, there is peace in Afghanistan. Now, about human rights, I mean, what is the world going to do? Did I — am I justifying it? All I am saying is, what should we do about it? Are we going to invade Afghanistan again to liberate the women? What are we going to do?
The best way is to engage with them, bring them in the mainstream, and then put pressure on them, and hope that the people of Afghanistan, and especially the women of Afghanistan, they are strong enough to assert their rights. Give them time.
In the last year-plus, have you encouraged those leaders to let girls back into school?
No, there is no communication. So, I mean, if there is communication, we would talk about girls education and so on.
But do you believe that they should let girls back into school? You have a platform here. If you were to deliver a message to them now, what would you say?
Look, of course.
Look, Amna, In Pakistan, in K.P., which is the bordering province to Afghanistan, we give special stipends to parents who send their girls for education. We believe firmly that it's women education that actually builds societies.
That is the former Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan joining us today.
Thank you for your time.
Thank you, Amna.
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Amna Nawaz serves as PBS NewsHour's chief correspondent and primary substitute anchor.
As the deputy senior producer for foreign affairs and defense at the PBS NewsHour, Dan plays a key role in helping oversee and produce the program’s foreign affairs and defense stories. His pieces have broken new ground on an array of military issues, exposing debates simmering outside the public eye.
Zeba Warsi is a producer, foreign affairs. She's a Columbia Journalism School graduate with an M.A. in Political journalism. Prior to the NewsHour, she was based in New Delhi for seven years, covering politics, extremism and human rights from CNN's India affiliate CNN-News18.
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