- Khan says he wants to pursue an independent foreign policy
- Former Prime Minister Speaks to Bloomberg in Interview
The former cricket star, who was removed from office in a confidence vote last year, said in an interview that he hopes to win a majority when elections are held, probably sometime after August. He said he is preparing a “radical” plan to prop up an economy he predicts will be in worse shape by then.
The South Asian nation came dangerously close to a debt default in recent months, pushing its bond yields to difficult levels as IMF loan payments were delayed. Khan’s successor, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, has been wary of the fund’s demands, such as raising energy prices and taxes. Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves have plunged by half since October, and are now insufficient to pay for a month’s worth of imports.
The country is also recovering from the impact of last year’s catastrophic floods and is suffering from rising inflation.
“We will have to make policies like never before in our country,” Khan said. “We fear a situation like Sri Lanka,” he said, referring to non-compliance in Pakistan’s regional neighbor.
He said he would reappoint Shaukat Tarin as finance minister after he held the position in Khan’s previous administration.
Khan has taken to the streets since he was ousted from office, leading protests aimed at pressuring Sharif’s government to call early elections.
In one of his government’s last major decisions, Khan lowered fuel prices, sparking a dispute that stalled the IMF program. The former prime minister said his decision was based on getting discounted fuel from Russia. Khan was in Moscow for a previously scheduled visit on the day Russia invaded Ukraine in February last year. In a three-hour conversation, President Vladimir Putin promised to help Pakistan with energy supplies, Khan said in the interview.
Khan said he enjoyed an excellent relationship with former President Donald Trump, but ties deteriorated under his successor. “It’s only when Joe Biden came along that, for some reason, I discovered there was reluctance there,” he said, adding that he believes that happened because the U.S. needed someone to blame for its departure from Afghanistan.
Khan came to power in 2018 as an outsider in a country where politics has been largely dominated by dynasties and the powerful military. While his rise to the post of prime minister was seen as the blessing of the military establishment, his departure was marked by a breakdown of that relationship.
In their latest pressure tactic to push for early elections, the former cricket star’s allies dissolved two of the nation’s four provincial assemblies. That has triggered elections in those provinces, which have historically been held in parallel with a national vote.
Khan said he believes national elections may be rigged to keep him out of power. He referred to his removal from office as “regime change,” and said Sharif’s ruling coalition and some members of the country’s establishment are “scared” because “they were part of regime change. We know exactly who was responsible for it.”
Pakistan’s government spokesman and the military’s media wing did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Khan’s comments.
Khan, who has heavy security outside his residence, said he still believes his life is in danger. He has blamed Prime Minister Sharif and an intelligence officer for the November attack. Both have denied the claim.
“Right now I’m afraid, I have powerful enemies,” Khan said. “The whole political status quo is stacked against me.”
Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party said early Wednesday that reports were circulating that the former prime minister could be arrested. Press reports said a senior party leader, Fawad Chaudhry, had been detained by security officials. The police complaint accused Chaudhry of threatening senior officials of the Election Commission, according to the report.
Video footage appeared on social media showing supporters gathered just outside Khan’s residence in Lahore following an appeal by his party to protect him from security forces, highlighting his widespread popularity.
“They have to go through the brave women and girls to get to Kaptaan in Zaman Park!” the match said in a tweet referring to Khan, who was once the captain of the Pakistani cricket team. “Pakistanis are brave and determined, Lahore now belongs to Kaptaan.”