Can you explain how you plan to win over the Pakistani Taliban?
There are a million armed men. We have to have dialogue with them, reach out to them. We [the Tehreek-e-Insaf party] are the most popular political party in the territories, and we need dialogue. They have resisted every superpower in history. We need to give peace a chance to engage and win them over.
We have the same goals in Afghanistan: an honorable exit, an exit that guarantees no terrorism attacks.
Would you welcome Chinese troops in Afghanistan?
No foreign troops in Afghanistan.
So do you think American troops should just leave?
Not yet, but they need to sit down with the main stakeholders there—Iran, the Taliban, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. You need a ceasefire first. You can’t talk and fight. The surge was supposed to get them to the table and that failed.
Is China a better partner for Pakistan than the United States, politically and militarily?
It’s not a question of better. Three things: China is a neighbor, China has a lot of experience pulling hundreds of millions of people out of poverty—and that’s what Pakistan needs, poverty alleviation—and we can learn from China’s experience in fighting corruption.
What role will China play in the next election in Pakistan? [Laughs.]
I hope no one plays any role in our election, because we already had the Bush administration playing its role and bringing in one of the worst-ever, corrupt, and incompetent governments in our history. I think that the lesson from the Arab Spring is also this, that the era of patronizing puppets is gone.
How do you feel about how the United States took out bin Laden?
There was a lot of anger and confusion and humiliation. There was no Taliban and Al Qaeda in Pakistan before the war on terror, and we’ve sacrificed 35,000 of our own men, and $70 billion, where aid has only been less than $20 billion, and then we find out from Obama that Osama is dead. They don’t even trust us to do it? Are we allies or what?