Speaking to a group of foreign journalists in Pakistan, Khan, according to a Reuters report, said that if the Congress leads the next government, it may be too scared to seek a settlement with Pakistan over Kashmir, fearing a backlash from the right. “Perhaps if the BJP — a right-wing party — wins, some kind of settlement in Kashmir could be reached,” he said.
While the Opposition parties targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi over Khan’s statement, neither the BJP nor the government issued an official response.
“Pakistan has now officially allied with Modi. Pakistan Prime Minister appears to say that a vote for Modi is a vote for Imran Khan. Modiji ka pehle Nawaz Sharif se pyaar, aur ab Imran Khan unka chaheeta yaar (Earlier, Modi got along with Nawaz Sharif, and now he’s Imran Khan’s best friend). But Imran Khan should understand one thing. They will not burst crackers in Pakistan because of Modi’s victory, because he is not winning the 2019 elections,” Congress communication department head Randeep Surjewala said.
“Pakistan main macha shor, Narendra Modi once more,” tweeted Delhi Chief Minister and AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal. “Why does Pakistan want Modiji to win? Modiji should tell the country how deep are his relations with Pakistan. All Indians should know that if Modi wins, they will burst crackers in Pakistan,” he said.
“Pakistan has been the only issue of Modi’s election campaign, where he has scurrilously tried to link it to the Opposition. Now we know who Pakistan actually wants as PM, the only Indian PM to have invited ISI to a military base, and the only one who went to Pakistan uninvited,” said CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury. “We have serious concerns about foreign governments influencing our democratic election process. Last year, it was reported that ISI wants Modi as PM. Now, Pakistani PM says it,” he said.
“How does Khan know that the other governments will not support the peace process between the two countries? Now, it is for Modi to answer why Imran Khan is batting for him. Has Modi asked him to bat for him and his party,” said senior CPI leader D Raja.
This is not the first time that Khan has waded into the Indian elections.
On April 9, he tweeted, “When ldrs (leaders) in Israel & India show a moral bankruptcy in their readiness to annex occupied West Bank & IOK in defiance of int (international) law, UNSC resolutions & their own Constitution for votes, don’t their ppl (people) feel a sense of outrage & wonder how far they will go simply to win an election?”
In an interview last month, Khan claimed he was “still apprehensive” that “something could happen” before the general elections in India, and said India was gripped with “war hysteria”.
And on March 22, when the NDA government decided to boycott the Pakistan National Day reception in New Delhi, Khan said he had received a message from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying that is is time for people of the sub-continent to “work together for a democratic, peaceful, progressive & prosperous region, in an atmosphere free of terror and violence”.
In his latest comments, Khan also said that “Muslim-ness is being attacked” in India. “I never thought I would see what is happening in India right now,” he said. He said Modi, like Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was electioneering based on “fear and nationalist feeling”.
Khan also accepted Pakistan’s role in fostering militant groups that grew out of the US-backed mujahideen fighting Soviet forces in neighbouring Afghanistan in the 1980s. “We should never have allowed them to exist once jihad was over,” he said. “Today, we have the total support of the Pakistan Army and Intelligence services in dismantling them… What use has ISI of them anymore? These groups were created for the Afghan jihad,” he said.
On Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar, Khan said Pakistan was constrained by the need to build a legal case that would stand in court but said Azhar had been driven underground and was “ineffective” and unwell. “More important than him is the set-up, and that is being dismantled,” he said.
On the latest crackdown against terrorist groups, he said, “Everyone now knows that what is happening in Pakistan has never happened (before)… We have decided, this country has decided, for the future of the country — forget outside pressure — we will not allow armed militias to operate.”
Facing a financial crisis and pressure to take on militant groups to avoid sanctions from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Khan said Pakistan was acting in its own interests. “We can’t afford to be blacklisted, that would mean sanctions,” he said.