‘Pakistan could be heading to dark ages,’ Imran Khan tells the Media Line

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Born in 1952 to a wealthy Pashtun family in Lahore, Pakistan, Imran Khan had access to quality education and a nurturing environment for his cricket passion. A gifted athlete, Khan played his first Test match for Pakistan at 18, marking the beginning of an illustrious two-decade career. His charisma and leadership led Pakistan to their 1992 Cricket World Cup victory, winning not only the trophy but also the hearts of millions.

 

After retiring from cricket, he channeled his leadership and fame into the realm of politics, founding the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party in 1996. His ambitious vision for a corruption-free Pakistan, where justice would be swift and the state would provide welfare for its citizens, resonated with the masses. Khan’s perseverance paid off in the 2018 general elections when PTI emerged victorious, catapulting him to the position of Pakistan’s 22nd prime minister. In office, he spearheaded several reforms in health care, championed poverty alleviation, and took significant strides toward regional peace.

 

Removed from office through a no-confidence motion in April 2022, Khan was hit by numerous challenges. He faced charges under anti-terror laws for accusing the police and judiciary of detaining and torturing an aide and was later disqualified from holding office for the current term of the National Assembly. After surviving an assassination attempt in November 2022, he was arrested on corruption charges by paramilitary troops on May 9, 2023, sparking nationwide protests and the subsequent arrests of thousands of his supporters.

 

Following the tumult, many PTI members abandoned Khan and formed a rival party. However, the Supreme Court declared Khan’s arrest illegal, and on May 12, the Islamabad High Court ordered his immediate release.

 

In the aftermath of these events, Khan’s PTI party has significantly weakened, jeopardizing his attempts to regain power in the forthcoming general elections, slated for October of this year. Khan not only faces a dwindling political landscape but also the threat of a military trial. The government accuses him of orchestrating the protests, including attacks on the country’s military establishment. The possibility of his imminent arrest, on charges of corruption and inciting violence against the state, is high, and his prospects of running in the upcoming elections are increasingly uncertain.

 

Imran Khan speaks extensively and candidly from his office in Lahore, seated in what has become a familiar setting on YouTube, one of his only means of communications to the outside world.

 

Dressed in his signature traditional shalwar kameez outfit, the former prime minister chats with President of The Media Line Felice Friedson and Mideast Bureau Chief Mohammad Al-Kassim.

 

Friedson: Fighting for survival, and joining us from Lahore, Pakistan, former Prime Minister Imran Kahn is facing off against the ruling party and military establishment. As we speak, a warrant for your arrest without the possibility of parole has been issued. Mr. Prime Minister, thank you for this time with The Media Line.

 

You have just come from the courts, again, and if you can share with us what happened today, and what is going on. Why are you being charged? And if you can enlighten the audience. There are 170 counts against you. What does this mean?

 

Khan: Well, just to give your audience a background of what is going on, why have I got 170 cases against me, ranging from terrorism to sedition to corruption; two corruption cases out of 170. But mainly they are about criminal cases, and the latest one is on murder as well. I am supposed to have murdered someone.

 

Here is a person who is known in this country for 50 years. No one, no Pakistani, has been known for such a long time, because I used to be a sportsman for 20 years, and at the time the biggest sportsman. And then I was, I am the biggest philanthropist in this country, who has built the biggest charitable institutions here.

 

So, people know me for a long time, and I am the one who collects the highest amount of money every year for charity. Because people have trusted me. So suddenly, at 70, no criminal case, and then just in the last few months I have 170 cases. So people don’t take this seriously. People don’t believe this. But why is this happening? Because the military establishment, or the army chief to be precise, because the military establishment means one man, the army chief. So, he conspired to remove me. This was in April last year.

 

What happened after that is unique in Pakistan. I was removed on the 9th of April. On the 10th of April, for the first time in history, hundreds and thousands of people came out in the street protesting against this, so that took the military establishment completely by surprise.

 

And then they thought that this is just a bubble. They started victimizing my party, thinking that once the establishment is against a party, normally I mean no one stands up against the military establishment or the army chief. But what happened subsequently is that out of 37 by-elections [known in the US as special elections], despite the military supporting this 12-party coalition, we won 30 out of 37 by-elections, which is unprecedented.

 

Then was this assassination attempt, because they thought that if they couldn’t remove me through politics, then through the final solution. I was lucky to survive that. And then there was another assassination attempt beyond the 18th of March. Unfortunately, you know I was lucky to survive that too.

 

Now, the situation is that they were so desperate that whatever they do the party keeps growing in polarity, and it is arguably the most popular party in our history right now. I mean, our rating is north of 70% in this country. And so, now the game plan is, using the pretext of [the] 9th [of] May, when they abducted me, when the army abducted me from the precincts of the High Court like some terrorist, and they used that reaction as a pretext to completely dismantle the party. So, 10,000 of our workers and 48 others were put in jail.

 

So, clearly it was preplanned, otherwise you can’t just pick up 10,000 people. Obviously, they had planned it before. So, the reaction to the way that I was abducted, they used that reaction to put 10,000 workers in jail, my entire leadership in jail. The only way that they come out and see the leadership is if they renounce the party, if they leave the party. Then they are always forgiven. So, all criminal cases are dropped the moment they say that I am leaving the party.

 

And the rest of my party is in hiding right now. So, I am basically the only one outside, because the Supreme Court made it illegal, unlawful, my abduction, so I am still outside, but I don’t expect to be outside for long. I think that it is a matter of time before they jail me.

 

That’s the only way that they feel that they can stop us from winning the next elections.

 

Friedson: Well, you bring up that point. So, chairman, if you have so many of your people that are following you and supporters that are either being put down or suppressed in some form, what’s the next strategy, and what would happen with the elections that are supposed to be in October?

 

Khan: The problem is that the establishment does not understand, and I again mean the current army chief is the establishment. He doesn’t understand one point: that once people make up their minds that they are going to back a certain party, no army or force can stop an idea whose time has come.

 

So, once people believe and stand behind their political party, you then cannot then wish it away by these draconian measures, by this extreme victimization, by jailing the workers and leadership, because whenever there are elections, and I can predict right now, because it has happened in the past. In 1970, the establishment tried to ban the biggest party, and the whole of the elections was swept by that party, despite the establishment trying to stop it. It’s the same situation. No matter what they do, the moment the election campaign starts, they will not be able to stop PTI, my party, from winning the elections.

 

Friedson: Even if you are sitting in prison?

 

Khan: Even if I am disqualified, or if I am sitting in prison, they cannot stop a vote bank. The vote bank of the party keeps increasing, so after the 9th of May crackdown, the worst crackdown in the history [of the party]. I mean, crackdown means not just that they have abducted and put people in jail, [but also] custodian torture. A lot of them have suffered custodian torture.

 

It is the hardest time in this country, and people have suffered illnesses because they have been stuck in these cramped cells, and despite all that, the party is not breaking, and some of the leaders have left under pressure, but the workers and the vote bank keeps increasing.

 

And the other thing is that the judiciary today, they have tried to completely, what should I say, make the judiciary impotent. I mean, they don’t listen to the verdicts of our Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ordered elections in the biggest province on the 14th of May. They refused. The government refused.

 

Our workers go out for pay, and the police pick them up in another case. They have completely muzzled the media. The media is not allowed to utter one word about me. It’s never happened here before. Even in martial laws, media will not muzzle like that, that they cannot even utter a word about me. And one of our best investigative journalists has been abducted. For months he has disappeared.

 

Four of our top journalists have left the country because of these draconian measures. Despite all that, these desperate measures, only to keep me out, it’s not working, because the public is supporting the party, and the support is growing even more.

 

Al-Kassim: You’re talking about, Mr. Khan, growing support for your party, but let’s focus a little bit on the unheard number of charges that you are faced with, and if those charges, and some say that it’s likely that you will have to serve some time in jail, and this would be a long time, unfortunately for you, what does it say about the political system in Pakistan, and what is your feeling and the general view of what is happening to you?

 

Khan: Of the 75-year history in Pakistan, roughly half the time we have been ruled by military dictators, and the other half [of the] time by these two families, who we really call mafias because they have degenerated into mafias. They have massive criminal corruption cases against them.

 

The Sharif family was caught in the Panama Papers disclosures, when this was an international disclosure about properties and offshore accounts by heads of state and ministers. And so these two families have basically now, first they used to fight each other, but they have colluded with each other. They are now together against me. So since I came in, they have all gotten together and now they are backed by the military establishment. So, between the two families and the military, Pakistan has really been ruled for the past 65 years.

 

Now, I am an outsider, so since I’ve come in, I now face this combined opposition.

 

Now, the answer to your question. Now, the question is about all these cases and how they want to imprison me. How do you think I will cope with it?

 

I am fighting all the court cases. Normally what has happened is that the two families, when they’re outside power, they all leave the country, they go outside. I decided that I would stay and fight all of my cases. In fact, I have asked them that they should televise all my cases, that all my cases should be televised so that the people should know the charges against me, because some of them are so ridiculous that they will be exposed as what is going on.

 

How can you have 170 cases against one man in just a few months? So, as I said, is it rigged? From blasphemy! I mean, blasphemy, sedition, and so on.

 

All I want is that my cases should be heard publicly, like in the US, like your famous OJ Simpson case that was watched by everyone. We want cases like that to be in public. So, let the people know these cases against me.

 

Al-Kassim: One place we’re not hearing from, or one side, is the international community. Normally when there is a military coup or a democratically elected leader is removed or deposed by the military, we hear criticism and strong statements from Washington, from London, and elsewhere. The world reaction to what is happening to you and in Pakistan has been somewhat mute. We haven’t heard a whole lot. What’s happening to that?

 

Interestingly enough, there haven’t been a whole lot of statements in your support. Why do you think that’s the case? And would you like to see the British prime minister or even President Joe Biden come out in support of you?

 

Khan: The tragedy is that Pakistan’s democracy was evolving. In the past 20 years, we made strides in our democratic system. What happened is that the media started asserting its independence.

 

We had electronic media coming in. Normally, they used only one government-controlled channel, so in 20 years, we have about 40 TV channels now. And we had media competing with each other. And sort of a vibrant media, which is one of the pillars of democracy.

 

And the second [thing] is, that for the last 16 years, our judiciary before that used to be a part of the executive [branch], so it never protected the fundamental rights of the people because they went along with whatever the executive was doing.

 

So, 16, 17 years back, our judiciary started asserting its independence, and there was a lawyers’ movement for the independence of the judiciary which I participated [in]. I also went to jail in that movement. But since then, the judiciary also came out as a defender of democracy and our fundamental rights.

 

All that now is being rolled back. Not just that the judiciary is now controlled and that they are trying to control it, because they have now announced, the government has announced military courts. Military courts, to try civilians like me! You know [what]? That is the end of your democracy!

 

I mean, in which democracy do you have military courts trying civilians? That case is going on in the Supreme Court right now. And the government ministers are saying that if the Supreme Court decides against military courts, they won’t obey the orders of the Supreme Court! So, this is the situation right now.

 

The judiciary is muzzled. I mean, they are trying to hamstring it. The media is totally muzzled. I repeat, my name is not allowed to be mentioned on it. It is completely controlled. So it is a huge setback for democracy.

 

Now, what is surprising is that the Western leaders who talk about democracy, fundamental rights, human rights, against custodial torture, all of these things are said when they are talking about what’s going on in Hong Kong, or what’s going on against the Uighurs in China, or about Russia, the lack of democracy [there].

 

And yet, they are completely silent. And my hunch is that is because I think the Pakistan establishment is helping in Ukraine. And second, because I am considered a nationalist. Normally, Pakistani prime ministers were considered pretty subservient. Whatever Washington said, they did. They participated in the war on terror.

 

I was a big opponent of Pakistan participating in the war on terror, because Pakistan lost 18,000 people dead in that. How can you … it’s great to help other countries, but you can’t sacrifice your own 18,000 people. Has any US ally ever taken such heavy casualties? And over $100 billion lost to the economy.

 

Now, this is a country which has 100 million people who are vulnerable, either below the poverty level or just above it, so my point is that the first priority of a prime minister must be the welfare of your people and especially poverty, reducing poverty. So, maybe they think that I am ultra-nationalist. And I wanted to be neutral in this war, by the way, of Ukraine versus Russia, just like India. Because, again, we needed cheap oil from Russia, like India has. And we needed 2 million tons of grain from India, because there is a shortage here.

 

And so, being neutral, India has been able to have oil at a 40% discount at a time of acute inflation all over the world. Meanwhile, we in Pakistan have suffered the poorest inflation, we have 38% inflation in this country, which is causing poverty. So, my whole point is that the country’s foreign policy should reflect the interests and aspirations of the people of that country, and maybe that’s why they think that this government is more of an ally because it is helping them in Ukraine. Maybe that’s why.

 

Al-Kassim: Some say that you may have upset the Americans when you accused them of imposing or interfering in passing messages to your ambassador in Washington saying that a vote of confidence should be called upon you. And also, there are accusations that you have become so close to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, and that upset your allies, the US.

 

Khan: Let me be clear about President Putin. Our foreign office and our military leadership wanted me to take the trip to Russia and that trip was planned about a month before [the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022], and the idea was that we needed cheap oil, we needed a pipeline because they have expertise in building pipelines. A gas pipeline which we wanted to build.

 

And secondly, we have a shortage of wheat and a growing population, so we needed wheat from Russia. And the military needed some hardware. So the trip was planned a month before. How was I supposed to know that I arrived the night before, and the next morning Russia invades Ukraine? How was I supposed to know? So, anyway, bad timing. Obviously if I would have known, I wouldn’t have gone.

 

But the second thing, what were the facts? On the 6th or 7th of March ‘22, I get a cipher, a cipher is a coded message sent by your ambassador from Washington, I get a cipher and it is talking about a meeting, an official meeting, he had with an American undersecretary of state.

 

And the cipher said, the American was telling my ambassador that unless Imran Kahn the prime minister is removed through a vote of no confidence, there would be consequences for Pakistan. I mean, imagine an elected prime minister reading this cipher, what would he think? And then, the next day, there is a vote of no confidence. So, this message clearly was to the army chief, because he then – it couldn’t be to me, because I was the head of the foreign office, I was the PM.

 

Because the message was that the army chief moved in and he pulled the strings, and our government that had been performing the best economic performance in 17 years, which is recorded in our annual economic survey of Pakistan, and secondly, one of the top three countries which dealt with the COVID-19 crisis the best, and so, the next day there is a vote of no confidence, and within weeks my government is gone. So that’s what happened, and later on we discovered that this whole thing was initiated by my army chief, who was planning to get an extension from the current prime minister. And so, this whole conspiracy was managed, and he then fed the Americans that Imran Khan was an anti-American bad guy.

 

Friedson: How would you describe your relationship with the current Biden administration, and the previous administration, the Trump administration?

 

Khan: Well, I had a very good relationship with the Trump administration. I visited Washington twice, and I had meetings with President Trump. Really we talked about a lot of things, but especially at that time the biggest problem the US faced was Afghanistan, and the withdrawal from Afghanistan. Pakistan played a big part in getting the US and the Taliban to sit together. So, my government played that big part in getting them together in the talk[s], which took place in Doha. I had meetings with him, plus we discussed other things.

 

It’s just that when President Trump went and President Biden came, I have no idea why, but he never communicated with me, President Biden, for reasons he knows best. And somehow, although my foreign minister spoke to Secretary [of State Antony] Blinken a few times and there were others [ministers], but I never had any direct communication with President Biden after that. And in fact, there was no American ambassador in Pakistan either. So, the answer is no, I had no communication. As prime minister, I had no communication.

 

Friedson: In looking at how everything played out with the Taliban, particularly in the last year and a half, do you think it was the right move? Would you say right now that America should be cajoled to being [involved] part and parcel in speaking to the Taliban?

 

Khan: As someone who from day 1 kept saying that there will never be a military solution in Afghanistan, because someone who knows the history of Afghanistan, and my party was in power in what is called the KP Province, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which borders Afghanistan. So, first I won the election in 2013 there and my party was in power for five years, then, in 2018, I won the national elections, so we formed a government at the federal level.

 

The whole war on terror that took place, the US invasion of Afghanistan, if you know the history of Afghanistan, this was the most ridiculous mission ever taken by the US, because whenever you have a mission, it must have aims. What do you want to achieve at the end? Suddenly we all began, everyone realized that they had no aim. They didn’t know what they were doing there.

 

Didn’t they go there to liberate Afghani women? I mean, if you speak to the Americans, they talk about the Afghani women. But has it ever happened that a country invades another country for liberating its women? Can this ever happen?

 

And secondly, about bringing democracy to Afghanistan. It’s like bringing democracy to Iraq. Democracies evolve from within. Like, when you asked me what do I expect from world leaders. I only want world leaders to talk about the values, the Western values which are promoted by them. As I said, it should not be used just against adversaries. It should be consistent.

 

So, you can from outside promote and you can incentivize democracy, but by actually going in by force, occupying another country and trying to bring democracy, it failed in Vietnam, it failed in Iraq, and it was going definitely to fail in Afghanistan, because Afghanistan was even more different than Iraq.

 

So, some people like us were saying firstly your aims are not clear, and secondly, whatever things you’re saying about bringing democracy and liberating women, is not going to happen. So, people like us were perceived as anti-American.

 

But, in the end, what choices did the US have? They had to do a withdrawal. It could not be a permanent [situation]. The whole rule of Afghanistan was under the Taliban anyway. The Afghan government was only confined to the cities in the end, and then they had trained 300,000 armed soldiers with the latest [American] equipment and another 100,000 police and security forces and contractors.

 

But the moment the US were going to leave, it was inevitable what was going to happen. Even when I spoke to President Trump, in a big meeting, he clearly said that the Afghani government would last six months after we leave. He was being generous.

 

People like us understood that once the whole population had turned against the corruption of the Afghani government, the way they were running the whole show, it was a pack of cards. The problem is, withdrawal was always going to be a problem.

 

Now, had it been a phased withdrawal, it might have worked. But, to be fair to President Biden, how was he supposed to know that 300,000 armed soldiers would give up without a fight? How was he supposed to know that President Ghani would just in the middle of the night take off and do a runner?

 

And so the president taking off took everyone by surprise and the whole thing collapsed. And so, the awful scenes of withdrawal which took place, and the airport scenes, that’s what shocked the people of the United States and all over the world; they were terrible scenes. But had President Ghani not left like that, the Afghani army would not have collapsed. There could have been a phased withdrawal and things would not have looked as bad as they did.

 

Al-Kassim: Let me take you back, Mr. Khan, to the time when you were prime minister. You seemed to have good relationships with many leaders of the Muslim world, many in the OIC, the Organization of Islamic Countries, like former [Malaysian] Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. However, it seems that you had a lukewarm relationship at best with two major countries at least to Pakistan, and that is China on the one hand, and Saudi Arabia on the other hand. Do you agree with this assessment?

 

Khan: Not at all. I had meetings with President Xi Jinping. We had a very good relationship. We had CPEC [the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor], which was very important for Pakistan. And secondly, China has been Pakistan’s closest ally for 60 years, so I had an excellent relationship with him. Unfortunately, COVID-19 hurt us, and China closed down for two years.

 

Remember, China has such quarantine laws that they just shut down for two years. So, out of three and a half years [as prime minister], two years went there, and that slowed down our economic cooperation.

 

And with [Saudi Crown Prince] Mohammed bin Salman I had an excellent relationship. There was just a little problem once: There was supposed to be a conference in Malaysia, which he objected, and I didn’t go to that conference. That was just a little bit of a disagreement, but you must remember that in my last four months of my government we had two OIC foreign ministers’ meetings in Pakistan, one in December, one in March. So, there were two OIC meetings in Pakistan. They could not have happened without the consent of Mohammed bin Salman, because Saudi Arabia plays a big part, it’s a big player in OIC.

 

Al-Kassim: What was Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s objection to you attending the conference in Malaysia?

 

Khan: It wasn’t an OIC conference in Malaysia, it was an invitation by then Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, and it was President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who also was going there, and he invited me. So, somehow, I don’t know, there was an objection and so in the end I canceled my visit to Malaysia. But that was the only disagreement we had. … But then I went to Saudi Arabia. I had a good relationship with Mohammed bin Salman.

 

Friedson: When you began this interview you talked about the fact that all these arrests are imminent. You can’t get your message out. It must be very frustrating. My question is twofold. One, in looking back, is there something you might have done differently to not create so many enemies? And secondly, how can you get accurate information out in an age of misinformation to begin with? And secondarily, what do you feel on that score is not really getting out, particularly to the Western market?

 

Khan: First of all, what could I have done differently? I am afraid that if you take a stand against the status quo, a status quo that has virtually ruled Pakistan for the last 70 years, so you are always going to make enemies.

 

A leader has to make a decision. Does he want power for power’s sake? Or, does he want power for a specific purpose? In my case, it was rule of law. I started my politics 27 years ago called Movement for Justice, and for me, the basis of a civilized society is rule of law. To me, the difference between rich and poor countries is only one: rule of law. Rich countries have rule of law. Poor countries have law of the jungle. That’s why they are poor. It’s not because of lack of resources.

 

Pakistan is a classic country. In the ‘60s we were the fastest-growing developing country in Asia. We were made an example of development. And we lost our way because unfortunately, we have this ruling elite which is above [the] law. And once you do not have rule of law, you don’t have a level playing field, so you just cannot prosper.

 

If the weak cannot be protected from the strong by your judiciary, by your law, then, unfortunately, that country cannot prosper. In fact, only free countries prosper, countries that have freedom. And freedom comes from rule of law. And only rule of law gives you general democracy. Elections don’t give you democracy.

 

When you have rule of law, you have what is called a general democracy, because a genuine democracy means freedom. And free people prosper.

 

Why are you having these situations with people dying and boats trying to get to Europe? Why do you have so many people from southern America trying to get into the US? Because all these countries don’t have rule of law. They have conflicts. When you don’t have rule of law, you have conflicts.

 

The ruling elites of the poor countries plunder the countries. All the developing countries are being plundered by their ruling elites because they are above [the] law. Because according to this panel made by the secretary general of the UN, António Guterres, he made this panel … where he had a group of economists and the job was [to find out] why poor countries are getting poorer and rich countries are getting richer. And that panel, after a year, came up with these figures which are astounding: $1.7 trillion every year are shifted from poor countries to rich countries, to rich capitals, to offshore accounts.

 

This plundering takes place because the countries don’t have, can’t bring the powerful under the law. And that is why I came into politics 27 years ago. And whenever I was going to do that, I knew that the powerful mafias were going to attack me.

 

I didn’t come in not expecting opposition. I knew I would be opposed. I knew my life would be in danger because the powerful don’t want [to be challenged]. They are raking it in. Why would they want to lose power by me winning? Hence, all these cases and assassination attempts, the possibility of jail, and so on. That’s why.

 

Al-Kassim: Mr. Khan, despite your age, you are 70 years old, and you’ve had a great athletic career. But you have connected with the young people of Pakistan, young men and women. You utilized social media to your advantage, and you have given those young people hope that Pakistan is changing and that it is evolving. Talk to us about your usage of social media, and how and why are you so popular with the young Pakistanis, the young people of Pakistan? And how were you able to successfully connect with them? And how do you stay in touch with them right now?

 

Khan: Probably [I am] one of the big names in sports in my country, and then achieving in sports until then what no other sportsman had achieved, and cricket was the most popular game, so I was already a big name amongst the young people. And then I built the biggest charitable institutions. I built two cancer hospitals for 70% free treatment, and then I built two universities. One is just starting, but the other one is also a new one. It’s 10 years old. That too has 90% underprivileged people on scholarships.

 

And I have collected more money than anyone has ever collected in our history because people trust me. So I was already known in Pakistan before I came into politics. And for 14 years in politics, I was in the wilderness, because I had these two established parties, entrenched parties, and I was an outsider. So for 14 years people never thought that I would ever win.

 

And one of the reasons was that that media, the mainstream media, it was controlled by the government. And the private channels, the media owners, had their own business interests. So their business interests were these two main parties, so I was nowhere.

 

Then came social media, and I am talking about 2008, ‘09, ‘10, around that time period. And we were the first party to utilize social media.

 

The two mainstream parties had no idea. Because the younger people joined in, and the younger people were all on social media. So we had a head start. And, right now, my only form of communication is through social media. I utilize YouTube. I give my talks on YouTube. My Twitter [following] is almost 20 million, so I use that.

 

And that’s how I communicate right now, because on the electronic media and print media in this country, I am banned.

 

Friedson: So, before we let you go, what are the most important words that you would like to leave us with?

 

Khan: It is very important for Western countries, and I’m talking about the governments and the media as well, that they must stand for democracy, because democracy is freedom. The worst thing you can do is to enslave human beings. And we have enough experience now if we look back, say, just after the Second World War.

 

The countries that went democratic were called the Free World, and you look at the countries that had totalitarian states that became controlled, like Eastern Europe, and Western Europe. After 50 years, you could see that the countries that had democracy and freedom prospered. I mean, their standard of living went way up compared to the ones that were controlled.

 

A classic case is of Germany, East and West Germany, the same people. West Germany prospered. East Germany was way behind. [Another example is] South Korea, North Korea. One country has totalitarian control. Look at the standard of living, the difference between the two.

 

So Pakistan is now at what I call the edge of darkness. We can either now go towards what we are striving for, a democratic country with free and fair elections, or we are headed towards the dark ages, where we will have [the] military basically running the country.

 

We all know the countries where there is military [rule] right now, Myanmar and countries like Sudan. That’s why you have emigration from there, people leaving in droves because they see no hope in that.

 

Friedson: Chairman Khan, we wish you safety, best of luck, and we hope that your message gets out. And thank you so much for joining us, the former prime minster of Pakistan.

 

Al-Kassim: Thank you very much.

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