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Imran Khan warns against US 'surge'

Pakistan ex-cricket star turned politician Imran Khan warned against any Iraq-style surge to tackle violent militancy in Afghanistan, telling AFP the two situations were "completely different".

world Updated: Oct 24, 2008 11:04 IST

Pakistan ex-cricket star turned politician Imran Khan warned against any Iraq-style surge to tackle violent militancy in Afghanistan, telling AFP the two situations were "completely different".

While stressing his support for US Democratic White House hopefuls Barack Obama and Joe Biden, he said in an interview on Thursday that any move to increase the US military presence would be a bad move.

Obama wants to pull US troops from Iraq and send them to Afghanistan, pledging to "take out" top Al-Qaeda figures thought to be hiding in the mountainous Pakistan-Afghanistan border region.

Khan also said any international bail-out to help Pakistan overcome its current economic crisis would be "like treating cancer with disprin", adding the problem could only be addressed long-term by reforms to halt corruption.

"Most American politicians haven't a clue," the chair of the Pakistan Movement for Justice said during a visit to London.

"So it's very easy, they say, you know a surge, but do they understand a surge in Afghanistan and Pakistan is completely different to urban centres in Iraq?

"It's a spread-out area, they don't understand that this (the violence) has morphed into Pashtun nationalism now... they have huge men and guns to draw from."

There are thought to be about 50 million ethnic Pashtuns living in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Khan said Biden had a good grasp of the area's politics, adding: "It looks as if they might understand the situation better than (Republican candidate John) McCain, who's basically owning all (US President George W.) Bush's policies."

He was scathing about the Pakistani government's attempts to tackle its balance of payments crisis and said any international bail-out would have a minimal effect without structural reforms to tackle corruption.

The violence-plagued country, a key ally of the US in the "war on terror", must find up to 4.5 billion dollars in foreign exchange in the next 30 days.

"It's like treating cancer with disprin (pain relief tablets)," Khan said of a possible bail-out deal with the International Monetary Fund, which has held discussions with Pakistan.

"There are fundamental flaws within Pakistan. The problem is not the aid -- (ex president Pervez) Musharraf had something like, after 9/11, 65 to 70 billion dollars of fiscal space available because of loans writeoff, loans rescheduling...

"But what happened? There was still an economic meltdown. So there are fundamental structural flaws in the economy. They need to get the governance system right."

The former Pakistan cricket captain also said that Pakistan's government would become more subservient to the United States if it had to borrow more money from it.

"Yes, it's going to be more difficult for Pakistan government because when you beg and borrow money, you have no ability to take a stand," Khan said.

The 55-year-old is not currently a lawmaker -- his party boycotted elections this year in protest at the lack of an independent judiciary.

And he said it would not attempt a return to parliament until independent-minded chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who was ousted under Musharraf, returns.

"We will wait until the chief justice gets reinstated," Khan said.

"Until he gets reinstated, in our opinion fighting elections will only produce dummy parliaments and a puppet prime minister."