Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan is once again making headlines for all the wrong reasons. As US troops withdraw from Afghanistan and the Taliban advance, he has found himself emerging as a somewhat controversial figure. The Taliban, Khan insisted recently during a media interaction, were normal civilians (as opposed to a military outfit).
"Now, there are camps of 500,000 people; there are camps of 100,000 people. And Taliban are not some military outfits, they are normal civilians. And if there are some civilians in these camps, how is Pakistan supposed to hunt these people down? How can you call them sanctuaries?" he argued in interview with PBS NewsHour.
Earlier this month, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had alleged that more than 10,000 "jihadi fighters entered the country from Pakistan in the last month", as Islamabad failed to convince the rebel group to participate "seriously" in the peace talks.
Speaking to the media on Thursday, Khan said that the other nation's repeated accusations against his country for being responsible for its worsening situation was unfortunate. Islamabad, he added, has always desired for peace and an inclusive government setup for its neighbour as it goes in favour of the two nations.
Pakistan has been long accused of helping the Taliban militarily, financially and with intelligence inputs in their fight against the Afghanistan government, but Imran Khan recently dismissed these accusations as "extremely unfair".
But even as various sections of the internet debate his remarks, the backlash over his 'Taliban are normal civilians' comment has been swift. A day after the controversial comments however, he appeared to strike a somewhat more conciliatory note. "What the Taliban are doing or not doing has nothing to do with us and we are not responsible, neither are we the spokesperson of the Taliban," he said, adding that "Pakistan has always desired for peace in Afghanistan".
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