In a recent interview with the US-based media agency Axios, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has categorically said that Pakistan would “absolutely not” allow the CIA to use Pakistani soil for US bases.
A clip from the interview came to light as Axios published an article with almost half a minute preview. The interviewer Mr. Jonathan Swan asked PM Khan, “will you allow the American government to have the CIA here in Pakistan to conduct cross-border counterterrorism missions against Al-Qaeda, ISIS, or the Taliban?”
To this Imran Khan said, “Absolutely not. There is no way we are going to allow any bases or any sort of action from Pakistani territory into Afghanistan.” He said again, “absolutely not.”
The US as a hegemon has believed in having an intelligence infrastructure in the region since the 1970s and has had a counterterrorism infrastructure for a long time.
So, now that the US is due to leave the graveyard of empires following a two-decade-long presence, following an awfully expensive and arguably a failed war, the country was hoping that it could set up bases near the Northwestern border of Pakistan.
There used to be a time when Pakistan hosted nine US bases till 2011 in Pakistan, as Pakistan served as US Central Command theatre for the region, however, as the famous publication The Diplomat wrote on 10th of June 2021, addressing the public and US administration, “Don’t expect Pakistan to host US military bases” anymore.
The whole thing began with the speculations being made in the Western media of a meeting that resulted in Pakistani authorities accepting the setting up of bases in the country. The news spread to all the media agencies until the Pakistani authorities outrightly rejected the claims.
NY Times on 6th June agreed with this and wrote, “Some American officials (told the newspaper) that negotiations with Pakistan had reached an impasse for now. Others have said the option remains on the table and a deal is possible.”
According to NYT, William J. Burns, the CIA director, made an unannounced visit to Islamabad to meet the chief of the Pakistani military and the head of the directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence.
The media agency reported that US Defence Secretary Lloyd J. Austin also has had frequent calls with the Pakistani military chief about getting the country’s help for future US operations in Afghanistan.
However, on 25th May, the Foreign Minister of Pakistan Shah Mehmood Qureshi took the parliament in confidence and categorically denied the provision of bases to the CIA.
Similarly, following the 6th of June article by the New York time, the foreign minister nipped the claim in the bed by going on a private show on 7th June and presenting the official stance which said, “Pakistan has told the US that it would not give military bases because the country has to look after its own interests.”
It must be remembered that even before coming into power, Khan was a staunch critic of U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, and even launched a campaign against them in 2012, when he did a motorcade march against US actions.
Therefore, in his manifestos before assuming power, PM Khan had vowed to fight the war on terror without being perceived as an appendage of the U.S.
Also, even after coming to power, the prime minister has always stressed the need for having a balanced and mutually beneficial relationship with the United States. Also, Khan has reaffirmed that Pakistan would only become a U.S ally in times of peace in the future and that the country’s soil would no longer be used to serve someone else’s interests.
The Western media and Imran Khan’s critics believe that the Pakistani PM would never agree to such an arrangement publicly as it would hurt him politically, however, the US officials are still hopeful in getting a suitable agreement covertly signed with Pakistan’s top brass.