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Prime Minister Imran Khan has warned that Afghanistan faces the possibility of another civil war if the US withdraws its forces from the country without a political settlement.

The US began drawdown from May 1 and the process is supposed to complete by September 11, as per the revised plan given by the Biden administration.

However, the US has changed the plan and wants to leave Afghanistan at the earliest, according to Foreign Minister Qureshi.

“We will be partners in peace but not in conflict,” said the premier in an interview with Jonathan Swan.

“There must be a political settlement in Afghanistan before the Americans leave. Without a political settlement, there is a possibility of a civil war, and the country that will suffer the most after Afghanistan will be Pakistan.”

The premier went on to say that Pakistan is already hosting three million Afghan refugees and continued conflict in the war-torn neighbouring country could lead to another exodus towards Pakistan.

Responding to a question, the prime minister said being the most powerful nation in the world, the United States has a big responsibility.

Imran also categorically said that Pakistan would "absolutely not" allow any bases and use of its territory for any sort of action inside Afghanistan.

"Absolutely not. There is no way we are going to allow any bases, any sort of action from Pakistani territory into Afghanistan. Absolutely not."

Pakistan's Covid-19 response

When asked about the country's Covid-19 response, Imran said that a partial lockdown coupled with comprehensive data analysis helped the government control the Covid-19 pandemic in Pakistan.

PM Imran told the interviewer how Pakistan fared better in containing the coronavirus pandemic as compared to the United States, which recorded more than 600,000 Covid-19 related deaths.

“For someone who believes in God, there is only so much you can do and then there is the twilight zone which is beyond you. So you can only try your best,” the premier said.

PM Imran further said that when Covid-19 was raging through Europe; Spain and Italy were the first two countries that suffered the most as hospitals were operating at capacity.

"Partial lockdown coupled with comprehensive data analysis helped us keep pandemic in control,"

“There was a big temptation in Pakistan by other politicians, leaders and the opposition that we should do a total lockdown. I kept asking what will happen to the daily wagers. About 70 to 75 per cent of our workers are in the informal economy.”

The premier said provinces decided to clamp down and narrated how the underprivileged were desperate for aid.

“You cannot lockdown hungry people,” the PM stressed. “So immediately we took the best decision, we opened up and just had smart lockdowns.”

The premier then explained the function of the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) and said data from all over the country was being analysed. "If we had a hotspot, we would clamp down on the area."

Kashmir dispute

Talking about the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) dispute, the prime minister said that according to the UN Security Council resolutions, there should have been a plebiscite for the people of Kashmir to decide their own future.

“This has not taken place,” PM Imran said. “If the Americans have the resolve and the will, this can be sorted out.”

He added that Pakistan and India will no longer have the need for nuclear weapons if the issue of the disputed valley is resolved, adding that Islamabad's nuclear arsenal is simply a deterrent to protect the country.

Countering Islamophobia

The prime minister said, "there is a big communication gap between the Islamic world and western societies".

Elaborating, the premier said it happened after the 9/11 attacks "when the word Islamic terrorism came into currency".

"The moment you say Islamic terrorism, the man in the street in the West thinks there is something in Islam that leads to terrorism."

The prime minister regretted that after 9/11, if there was any incident involving a Muslim, the entire Muslim population of the world started becoming a target.

When the interviewer asked the premier regarding the issue of Uyghurs in China, Imran said "our discussions with the Chinese will always be behind closed doors".

Answering a question by Swan regarding earlier allegations of 'rape victim blaming', Imran said, "It is such nonsense. I said the concept of pardah, which is to avoid temptation in society".

"We don't have discos or nightclubs, so it is a completely different society and way of life here."

When asked if what women wear has any effect or is part of temptation, the prime minister said: “If a woman is wearing very few clothes, it will have an impact on the men, unless they’re robots. I mean it is common sense.”

Elaborating, Imran said it "depends on which society you live in".

Earlier in his address at the Senate, Minister for Foreign Affairs Shah Mahmood Qureshi also ruled out the possibility of providing its military bases to the US for counter-terrorism operations in Afghanistan.

He rejected as unfounded the reports to this effect and made it clear that the government would never provide military bases to the US, nor would allow drone attacks inside Pakistan.

In a cabinet briefing, Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry also ruled out the possibility of any US airbase in Pakistan saying as all such facilities are under Pakistan's own use.

He said it was the PTI-led government that ended the “drone surveillance” facility given to the US in the past. "All the airbases are under the use of Pakistan. Right now, no negotiations in this regard are underway as Pakistan cannot give any airbase [to any country]," he said.

In a peace deal signed with the US in February 2020 in Qatar, the Taliban have committed that they would not allow any terrorist group to use Afghanistan’s soil against any other country.

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