Imran Khan goes out to bat for Erdogan

Imran Khan goes out to bat for Erdogan

Delighted to see Pakistan’s newly elected leader Imran Khan sending vocal support to Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

As regulars to my column know, Turkey and America have been plunged in to a war of words over detained US pastor Andrew Brunson who has been held in Turkey since October 2016. Erdogan says claims by US President Donald Trump that he had agreed to free the pastor as part of a deal with the US and Israel are simply not true.

The deal is said to involve the release of Turkish national Ebru Ozkan who was allowed to leave Israel for Turkey in mid-July. Brunson, meanwhile, was released into house arrest last week but he’s still been refused permission to leave Turkey.

Trump, unsurprisingly, took to Twitter to threaten more US sanctions against Turkey but, as I pointed out recently, the worst course of action the US President can do is try to threaten the Turkish leader.

Someone else who does not respond well to bullies is the former cricketer turned politician Imran Khan who has just been elected Pakistan’s Prime Minister.

I’ve interviewed Khan several times over the last ten years and can tell you he is no fan of US foreign policy and  warned that should he come to power in Pakistan the days of America treating his country “like a doormat” will be over.

The Week So Far: Can Imran Khan rise above the corruption which has mired Pakistan’s politics?

Last January Khan he wrote: “We became a US proxy for a war against the Soviet Union when it entered Afghanistan and we allowed the CIA to create, train, and arm Jihadi groups on our soil and a decade later we tried to eliminate them as terrorists on US orders. The time has come to stand firm and give a strong response to the US.”

Asked in a recent interview if he would meet with Trump if elected, Khan said he would, but added that it would be a “bitter pill” to swallow. He also once pledged to “shoot down US drones” if he was elected leader.

Prior to his election victory Khan attacked the US President for attempting to “humiliate and insult” his country and repeated the words he once told me that Pakistan would never be used by Washington as a “gun for hire”  referring to the period under General Pervez Musharraf in which Pakistan worked closely with America after 9/11 to the cost of Pakistan’s stability.

This is probably why Khan has sent a message of support to the Turkish leader and his people via Twitter although I’ve no doubt the two have already exchanged telephone conversations. Khan tweeted: “On behalf of the people of Pakistan & myself, I want to let President Erdogan & the people of Turkey know we are praying for their success in dealing with the severe economic challenges confronting them, as they have always succeeded against adversities in their glorious history.”

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There may be trouble ahead but I suspect Erdogan and Khan could make a formidable alliance which may even make Trump think twice before taking to the social networks to bully foreign leaders.

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