”He is a busy man”, Pakistan PM Imran Khan takes swipe at US President Biden

PTI, Sep 17, 2021, 8:30 AM IST

Islamabad: “He is a busy man”, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has said curtly about Joe Biden, expressing his disappointment over US President’s reluctance to contact him since coming into office in January this year.

During an interview to CNN on Wednesday from his private Bani Gala residence in Islamabad, Khan admitted that he had not spoken to President Biden since the collapse of the Afghan government.

When asked why Biden hadn’t called him since coming into office, the premier curtly said: “He is a busy man” and later said Biden should be asked “why he is too busy to call”.

Khan’s remarks came days after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a Congressional hearing indicated that Pakistan was involved in harbouring members of the Taliban, including the militants of the dreaded Haqqani Network.

“I think you”re very right to point at the role that Pakistan has played throughout the past 20 years and even before it. It is one that has involved hedging its bets constantly about the future of Afghanistan. It”s one that”s involved harbouring members of the Taliban, including the Haqqanis,” Blinken said while responding to a specific question from Democratic Congressman Bill Keating who alleged that Pakistan played an active and by so many accounts a negative role in Afghan affairs for decades.

“It”s one that”s also involved at different points of cooperation with us on counter-terrorism. And so, there are a number of things that have come into play. It has a multiplicity of interests, some that are in clear conflict with ours. When it comes to Afghanistan, it”s focused, of course, as well on India and the role that India is playing in Afghanistan,” Blinken said.

This is not the first time that Prime Minister Khan has expressed his disappointment over Biden’s reluctance to contact him.

During an interaction with foreign journalists at his residence in August, Prime Minister Khan had said that he was not really “waiting” for a phone call from President Biden.

“I keep hearing that President Biden hasn”t called me. It”s his business. It”s not like I am waiting for any phone call,” he had said in response to a question.

Khan, who had congratulated President Biden on his inauguration and expressed his desire to work with the new American administration to deepen bilateral ties, had said that Washington sees Pakistan as “useful” only for clearing the “mess” it has left behind in Afghanistan after 20 years of fighting and prefers India when it comes to forming a “strategic partnership”.

During his interview with CNN, Khan said Pakistan”s relationship with the US is not just dependent on a phone call, it needs to be a multidimensional one.

That”s something Khan said he doesn”t feel Pakistan enjoyed during the US” 20 year war in Afghanistan.

“We (Pakistan) were like a hired gun,” Khan said. “We were supposed to make them (the US) win the war in Afghanistan, which we never could.”

Khan also said he repeatedly warned US officials that America could not achieve its objectives militarily, and would “be stuck there.”

He said the US should have attempted a political settlement with the Taliban from a “position of strength,” at the height of its presence in Afghanistan, not as it was withdrawing.

The US-Pakistan relationship has witnessed ups and downs over the past decade. The ties nose-dived after the US killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden at his hideout in Pakistan in a covert raid in May 2011.

Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump had briefly suspended roughly USD 1 billion in US security aid to Pakistan and publicly accused Pakistani officials of “lies and deceit” for purportedly providing a base for the Taliban and other militant groups to carry out attacks across the border in Afghanistan.

Islamabad is unhappy that Biden has not spoken to Prime Minister Khan since he assumed the presidency in January.

Pakistan”s National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf has also expressed disappointment over President Biden’s reluctance to contact Prime Minister Khan despite considering Islamabad as an important country in some critical issues like Afghanistan.

Yousuf also said that Islamabad has other “options” if the American leader continues to ignore the country’s leadership.

The US State Department, however, had assured Islamabad that Washington recognises Pakistan’s vital role in restoring peace in Afghanistan and wants Islamabad to play that role.

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