Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recent statement at the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) meeting in Islamabad about Taliban being a ‘predominantly Pashtun movement’ generated criticism from various quarters. Pashtun activists in particular condemned the prime minister’s statement and said that it was wrong to equate the Pashtun community with Taliban.
Afghan Twitterati also reacted to the prime minister’s statement and shared stories of their male relatives supporting girls education and wanting to educate their daughters.
But this is not the first time Prime Minister Imran Khan has sparked outrage by his controversial remarks about the Taliban.
‘Afghans broke the chains of slavery’
Following the fall of Kabul in August, Prime Minister Imran Khan had said that mental slavery is worse than physical slavery, and went on to praise the Afghan people for ‘breaking the chains of slavery’ — an apparent reference to the fall of Kabul to Taliban.
His statement had led to widespread criticism on social media with people reminding him that the Taliban took over the country through force and violence and not through a democratic process.
‘Haqqani network is a tribe’
In September this year, Prime Minister Imran Khan had said that the Americans never understood what the Haqqani Network was. “Haqqani Network is a tribe. It is a Pashtun tribe living in Afghanistan,” he said, during a wide-ranging interview with CNN.
The prime minister’s statement on Haqqani Network was, however, factually incorrect. Many commentators took to social media to correct the PM. Ironically, he first blamed the US for not understanding the Haqqani Network and then proceeded to make an ill-informed comment about the origins of the group himself.
As a matter of fact, the Haqqani Network is named after the leader of the group Jalaluddin Haqqani. Haqqani was first a fighter for the Soviet Army in Afghanistan and was said to be a loyal ally of the CIA.
He later turned against the US and NATO forces, often reportedly operating from North Waziristan. Pakistan is accused of having given safe haven to the group in its tribal areas — a charge the country denies.
‘Pashtun are Taliban sympathisers’
In September, Prime Minister Imran Khan had said that Pashtuns living in the tribal regions in Pakistan had strong sympathies with the Afghan Taliban because of Pashtun nationalism ‘which is very strong’. “There were 3 million refugees in Pakistan living in camps and they all had sympathies with Afghan Taliban and they too turned against Pakistan and attacked the Pakistan government,” he said.
Prime Minister Khan’s statement terming Pashtuns sympathisers of the Taliban was criticised, with people calling it a gross generalisation. Some on social media also said that the PM was engaging in casual racism by terming all Pashtuns supporters of the Taliban.
‘Forgiving TTP will end violence’
In October, Prime Minister Imran Khan had said that the Pakistan government was in talks with ‘some groups’ of the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), adding that Pakistan will forgive them and they will become ‘normal citizens’ if the talks succeed.
The PM seemed hopeful that these talks would succeed and the violence will end. However, the TTP broke the reported ‘ceasefire’ that was announced by the government a few days after the negotiations. The TTP continues to carry out attacks mainly targeting Pakistan Army soldiers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).
The government’s negotiations with the Taliban were also severely criticised by various quarters including the heirs of Army Public School (APS) victims. The Supreme Court had also summoned PM Imran Khan in APS attack case and Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmad grilled him over talks with the TTP.