mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
From Imran Khan to Taliban Khan


Imran Khan is the chief of Pakistan’s PTI party, but secular Pakistanis have a different name for him: Taliban Khan. His stubborn insistence on peace talks with the Taliban, despite the carnage that the group has unleashed on Pakistan’s terrorized citizens, has led critics to label him an “accomplice” to the Taliban’s actions.

The charge isn’t without reason. Khan has refused to attribute responsibility for the recent attacks to any militant outfit, despite the fact that various groups have themselves claimed responsibility for some of the attacks. Instead he has waxed conspiratorial, asking, “Isn’t it strange that whenever peace talks are pursued, these attacks take place?” And he continues to refer to the Taliban as “our brothers from the Northwest.” Even his own party was forced to distance itself from him after Khan suggested that the Pakistani Taliban should open an office in Peshawar, just as their Afghan counterparts did in Doha.

Given the rising unpopularity of Khan’s stand, the obvious question is, why is he sticking to it? Cyril Almeida, editor at Dawn, Pakistan’s largest and most respected English language newspaper, has a theory:

Khan insists that talks are the only option, but who’s he got on the inside? Who’s the guy who can give Khan the inside track on what’s going on in the TTP, who’s up for talks, who isn’t, who to approach first, whom to be wary of?

Khan has no one. It started to become apparent during the election campaign: if the idea of talks and only talks was a scary enough position Khan had staked out, what was scarier was the realisation that Khan was only speaking to the TTP through his speeches and TV appearances. […]

Khan has no one on the inside. Which is almost as horrifying as the idea of talks and only talks: Khan not only doesn’t understand the enemy, he doesn’t even know who it is.

Almeida’s piece is a good attempt at trying to understand Khan’s actions and motivations—and their potentially catastrophic consequences for Pakistan.

Features Icon
show comments
© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service