Ambassador Munter misunderstood Imran Khan

Published: July 18, 2012

Imran Khan said that Ambassador Munter either misunderstood or misquoted his words. PHOTO: AFP

Ambassadors usually choose their words carefully. However, in a recent interview with BBC Urdu, the US Ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron Munter, stated that he had met with PTI Chairman Imran Khan and PML-N Chief Nawaz Sharif and that both leaders had assured him of a pro-US government if elected.

This was either a misinterpretation on his part or wishful thinking and shows the dangers of careless talk or reporting. Imran Khan has said on many occasions that he is not for or against the US, but that he is against specific US policies. In a 2011 interview on CNN’s ‘Face the Nation’, Khan stated unequivocally that Islamabad cannot afford to make an enemy of the US and that he seeks middle ground and, more importantly, equality in the US-Pakistan relationship.

In my numerous conversations with Khan, I find him to be a pragmatist and an intellectual thinker, not a blind ideologue. He does, however, reflect the anger of the Pakistani people about the long war on its borders. This war has taken 40,000 Pakistani lives in seven years of fighting with no definitive victory in sight. Pakistan is tired of fighting America’s war, he said, and any student of history would recognise the folly of trying to achieve a military solution in the tribal areas. This makes him neither for nor against the United States, but above all, he is a staunch supporter of Pakistan’s sovereignty and its desire for putting an end to being used as ‘a hired gun’ in the war in Afghanistan.

Imran Khan said that Ambassador Munter either misunderstood or misquoted his words and reiterated to reporters that the PTI has been saying since the beginning that war is not the answer to terrorism. The killing of Pakistani soldiers in a drone attack, the capture and killing of Bin Laden by American forces on Pakistani territory and the use of Pakistani land routes to provision the allies in Afghanistan are all perceived as affronts to Pakistan’s sovereignty. The US pursuit of a war on terrorism is proving as futile as the war on drugs and the war on poverty. Both countries need to reappraise the situation and as the manifesto of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party states, both countries need to establish a new paradigm of mutually beneficial relations with the US based on shared interests and common values.

Pakistan needs to recognise that it has many allies in the US when it comes to hatred of war, corruption, bigotry, ignorance and racism. Even if they have been unable to dominate in the current US Congress, Americans are continuing to campaign for an end to the Afghanistan war and the diversion of funding instead to health, education and job creation. Tired of George Bush’s wars, Americans are looking to find that elusive middle ground to which Imran Khan refers.

Both Pakistan and the United States are facing elections that are crucial to their futures. Let us hope that shared interests and common values prevail.

In the meantime, Ambassador Munter has announced his early retirement, choosing his words more carefully on that occasion. Of course, the media will always have their own interpretation, as unfortunately the ‘middle ground’ does not make headlines.

Read more by Azeem here or follow him on Twitter @AzeemIbrahim


Azeem Ibrahim

An International Security and Geopolitics Lecturer at the University of Chicago. Fellow and Member of the Board of Directors at the Institute of Social Policy and Understanding and a former Research Scholar at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and World Fellow at Yale. He is the Strategic Policy Advisor to Imran Khan and he tweets as @AzeemIbrahim (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • bangash

    Ambassador Munter understood that Imran Khan is playing the same game as PML-N and the Establishment, use anti-Americanism to get votes or support but work with Americans behind closed doors.Recommend

  • http://NewYork Falcon

    I agree with you. I think Americans and rest of the people across the globe need to up the ante against the war. War has never brought out a meaningful solution to any problem and so will be the case with the war in Afghanistan or elsewhere. Most of the liberals worldwide are against war. Recommend

  • THE

    Nicely put, excellent!Recommend

  • MBK

    That’s the point, hope sense prevails in our country & may it prevail beyond political affiliations.Recommend

  • Ali Ahmed

    so out of everyone only this kid understood Imran Khan right… ritee!Recommend

  • kanwal

    Dear author, i probably agree with what Imran khan SAYS. I wish he could say and lot more too though. For example whether or not he supports the banned outfits (which were established and nourished to help USA in esablishing the very policies IK is supposedly against) whose banners and representatives are seen eveyrwhere in his rallies? No word in favor of minorities or against the sectarian hatred they are facing at the hands of IK’s friends (i have pictures/vidoes showing these people in his rallies so pls dont start on tthis), very vague financial policies (something smells of UK’s system and George Osbourne dear author?) and of course including representatives of corporate and feudal elites (no declaration of assets yet!!!). Pls tell me one solid reason for not feeling disconcerted about all this? We are a nation in dire need of action. Not words. But i have a aneaky feeling you already know this Mr Ibrahim, dont you?Recommend

  • Imran Con

    Isn’t it a little funny how most PTI supporters spend their time trying to explain what Imran Khan says for him whenever he opens his mouth? How is it that everyone but his supporters translate the things he says into something contradictory or foolish?
    First PTI trolls, now PTI apologists.Recommend

  • Fakhir

    No peep out of Imran or any of his supporters about what they plan to do with the Taliban once America leaves. Will Pakistan take on the Taliban alone? Or will Taliban disperse peacefully as Imran thinks? or will Pakistan give control of some areas to the militants like it already tried once in Swat?Recommend

  • zia

    Dear, wiki-leaks secret cable has proved that who is an american pitthu and who is not… There is no need to indulge into this debate anymore!!!Recommend

  • faraz

    Nothing motivates our people more than hollow rhetoric. Imran is simply cashing in on anti-US sentiment to attract right wing voters. Imran has announced that PTI will allow supply line to US to withdraw from Afghanistan. By formation of next government in Pakistan, US will start withdrawing; this means NATO supplies will never be blocked. He also promises that Pakistan will not allow any extremist element to attack Afghanistan or any other country. While US is conducting drone strikes for precisely the same reason. So eventually Imran will realize his limitations regarding these militant groups after coming to power Recommend

  • Ch Allah Daad

    Not only Ambassador Munter, all his supporters misunderstood him too. Imran is an opportunist who hides or boycotts at crucial moments in history. He was one of the leading opponents of NATO supplies but is gone missing now. Perhaps his supporters have not heard what his terrorist allies are saying about him in rallies.Recommend

  • Tamoor

    Somebody alert the ET staff a pro imran TROLL some how made it to their site. Recommend

  • Ramadan

    Great article. We must also not forget what the Wikileaks showed. IE that Imran Khan was the ONLY Pakistan leader who did not ask the Americans for anything. Every other leader wanted favours from the Americans including Maulana Diesel who was willing to do more or less anything to become Prime Minister.

    With people like Dr Azeem Ibrahim helping Imran Khan, I think our country may have a chance to make a bright future for itself.

    I applaud you Dr Ibrahim.Recommend

  • Baset

    Azeem great post. I totally agree with you. IK from day one has been very clear about his stance on the war of terrorism. He never once said that he was anti-American or anti-any country, in fact he has always been anti-American policy on war. Even Americans now are trying to engage in dialogues with the militants which proves IK was right from day one. PTI zindabad !!! Recommend

  • Future_of_Pak

    very well written article. clearly articulated and I am fairly convinced by your reasoning. keep them coming, and all the best.Recommend

  • imran ilyas

    mr munter why do we believe you…………………. you are bunch of liars and 2ndly Khan Sahab is not against Americans he is against ur policies………….. Munter if Imran Khad will do the same job like zardari u wud not have said it openly to damage his reputation as u already know people of pakistan hate you american politicians so u have one objective to damage the credibility of imran khan and to prove ur point u also used the name of Nawaz shareef so people dnt think that u named imran khan intentionally so he cant win the election……… Mr munter we will nvr believe ur double games and double standard people……………….. u want a puppet and imran khan will nvr be ur puppet………… Go to H mr munterRecommend

  • PakiKaka

    Oh of course, The ambassador misunderstood, because the mighty Imran Khan can do or say no wrong. Give us a break Recommend

  • Pappu

    Every sensible Person with Basic education will do two things to judge who is lying ?

    1) First, Look at the history of the person who is being accused over the years. Look if there had been Wide gap between what he says and what he does.

    2) Second, I will apply the same rule on the “ACCUSER” In this case Ambassador MUNTER. And then See what he says or what His Govt. Syas does it takes the opposite Position usually then?

    In case of Imran Khan, people has no doubt there is no gaps between what he said in the past and what he did whether it is Cricket of his in Politics. He very well stuck to his positions, whether it was about drone attacks, or NRO or Economic Policies or corruption and tax evasion by the elites and their Foreign Bank accounts where they hold Looted wealth from Pakistani Public. Imran’s stance had been unchanged and time has shown that Nawaz Sharif changed his Position on Judiciary ( we remember when his People physically invaded the Supreme court and Chief Justice), drone Attacks, Foreign Policy and more.

    As Far as MUNETR is concerned, I will only give one example because if someone ahs to see Munter , they have to see the US Govt. Line he tows. It was US Govt. Who when Invaded Iraq it was Under the pretext and false allegations of Weapons of Mass destruction, which proven to be false. Same is true About Afghan Invasion as OBL is dead. Same is also true that drones Kill only terrorists. And Munter holds the Position that drones do not kill innocent people. Is not the reality against it? Logically speaking, No one can see from thousands of feet above who is terrorist on the ground and His Id card in his Pocket.

    Now, Question is why Munter Lied? What benefit his Govt. has in this? I will leave it to everyone’s own imagination. Recommend

  • littlegiant

    Who is Munter that his woord and its interpretation is written in stone for many Pakistanis? He was a diplomate whose time has expired. It may be wishful thinking on his part, it could be scoring a point among his supporters, it could be press misinterpreting his remarks. Imran has always said that he is not anti U.S. So a short-sighted commenter, who puts everyone in the pro or against camp, may certainly interpret that to mean that Imran is pro u.s. It’s a matter of semantecs and not worth the time of anyone whose time holds some value.Recommend

  • Guybrush

    Yes, sure. He misunderstood IK. However, Anne Patterson and the whistle blower for wikileaks always always understood all of the other people of power without an iota of doubt or any chance miscommunication…complete to the point, no chance of diplomacy and exactly what was being said. Its a lie what the ambassador now says about IK but if they say that IK is the only politician which is the same inside and out, it’s the absolute truth!Recommend

  • Ali Tahir

    @Ali Ahmed:
    I wish you had known even a bit about this “kid” azeem ibrahim before commenting. just visit his website and feel ashamed of calling him a kid. He has more achievements than you can even think of in your wildest imagination. And we all understood Imran Khan’s middle ground..not just this “kid”Recommend

  • Hashmi

    wonder why these liberal people are so jealous of IK, as obvious in the comments…Recommend

  • Parvez

    I see Imran Khan as being pragmatic and not suicidal. Nice article.Recommend

  • Asad

    Ok so people are going at lengths to discuss what a non elected person who has no say at the moment politically in Pakistan said perhaps they have forgotten what the PRESIDENT of Pakistan head of PPP said to the americans about not caring about civilians deaths cause by the drones. Just amazes me about the thinking process of blind delusional jiyalas.Recommend

  • Ahmad

    Can you please tell me what is your definition of a liberal and why you think that the liberals are against imran khan?Recommend

  • khurram kaleem

    All diplomatic meeting are held in very friendly forms and its a success if the diplomat thinks the person is pro american

    Long live nawaz sharif !Recommend

  • Yousaf

    Great piece Ibrahim keep it up :)Recommend

  • sabi

    this mantra of “missunderstood” will take pace as the time farwards.wait and seeRecommend

  • Uza Syed

    Had this man not insisted on meeting the Americans alone without his own people, leaving his top advisor (Dr. Mazari) waiting outside—–such situation wouldn’t have come up and he wouldn’t be denying what the US Ambassador arributing to him as his reassurance. Recommend

  • maltta

    Dear, I think this ambassador did his job well for his country and for his forces in kabul Recommend

  • Tanzeel

    Imran supported Military coup in 99 even at that time he was misinterpreted, later he supported Musharraf in referendum – again misinterpreted. Met with Jamat e Islami leaders misinterpreted. Got beaten by the Jamatis in PU – Misinterpreted. Supported US – again misinterpreted. Recommend

  • salman ibrahim

    nice article azeem..
    my belief in imran khan is getting stronger everydayRecommend

  • Majid khan

    Mr.Munter Misunderstand Imran khan thinking and his vision, Imran khan is clear and visionry guy. I am quite sure munter did’nt understand him.
    Nice attractive article, I love how imran khan speaks against american policies not about americans, all muslims whether they are in afghanistan , pakistan, palestine, kashmir, saudia arabia, syria, egypt, africa, iran and more musims countries they did’nt hate america they only hate ameican policies for muslims countries, they are racist! you can see clearily in 2012 olympic games on uniform issues , which are made by china to usa players. they do racism in different perspective. If america get out from afghanistan in 2013. It will be good for world and also pakistan . I personly think america should show there good face not bad face to world
    As far as Imran khan, he always stated that we dont like american policies for us, not america. This is our history we always beg from america. but zardari nawaz cannot do anything good for pakistani nation. they only fill there bellies with corruption money! Only and only Imran khan is great in pakistan politics. I respect him much.Recommend

  • Anticorruption

    Whether ambassador Munter understood Imran correctly is not that important at the end of the day. What is more important, however, is whether Imran and his party have fully ‘war gamed’ their stance on the issue of terrorism?

    Imran says that offering dialog and ending all military operations will resolve the problem of militancy within 90 days. This assumes that the militants are ready to renounce violence, accept basic human rights (especially woman rights) ensured in our constitution and start living peacefully. Likewise, his solution for Afghanistan is to broker a settlement between the US and Taliban. Again, for this to work, the US and Taliban both have to be willing to reach a reasonable agreement.

    The problem is that you cannot make policies based on wild assumptions and wishful thinking about how others are going to behave. You can control your own actions, but what the Americans and Taliban do is ultimately not in your control. The Taliban have never shown any willingness to accept the constitution and basic human rights; what makes Imran so sure he can make them change so quickly just by offering a dialog?Recommend

  • hariharmani

    He did not,IK,think he can pull wool on naive Pakistani,I’m least surprised by Imran Khan denial,,I would be surprised of anything less.I wasn’t born Yesterday,pl,give us some semblence of credit.We know how our politician have forked tongue,snakes are not only forked tongue.Recommend

  • hariharmani

    What shared interest,what common value,what common mutual beneficial paradigm?,just throwing big words,the writer thinks he can hoodwink folks,you only fool yourselves,the relationship has only gone down hill.Imran thinks ,first thing first,get power than like other leaders he can buy time and then ride the tiger.He is playing dangerous game.He will be sorry,but Pakistan will be sorrier.You heard it here.Good day.That is how Congress in India has stayed in power by misrule,he is no different.Cut from the same cloth.Recommend

  • LionOfPunjab

    “In my numerous conversations with Khan, I find him to be a pragmatist and an intellectual thinker, not a blind ideologue

    Just like Ambassador Munter, you also seem to have misunderstood IK!Recommend

  • Rex Minor

    The so called Pashtuns Talibans have never in their history negotiated with foreigners. they state minimal demands and they must be met. No mucking about, no spin and xxxno tricks. For Pashtuns all those who do not speak their language or understand their culture are foreigners. Imran Khan included. Those who sleep with wolves once know that it is extremely difficult to get rid of them. Both Germany and Japan have tried and the US forces are still sitting in their lands for one or other reason. Mr Musharaf caved in to pressures of George W and Pakistan must face the consequences now, just look at Iran. I would follow Iran policy and try to make regional alliance with china snd central Asian countries to disengage from a country which is traumatised by the action of young Arabs a decade ago.

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • Sarmad

    Minter misunderstood? I highly doubt that! He can never. Our 180 million can but he can’t. Minter is not xyz! I trust him. He said because Imran didn’t do reasonable resistance against NATO supply restoration that’s what America wants him to do. Problem is Imran Khan speaks a lot. But man is known by what he does, not speaks!Recommend

  • Noise

    In my numerous conversations with Khan, I find him to be a pragmatist and an intellectual thinker, not a blind ideologue.

    From what I read of Imran Khan its clear he is willing to say ANYTHING that will win him votes. He know that pretending to be a populist works in Pakistan. It sure worked for the Bhuttos.Recommend

  • Ali S

    Only in Pakistan are you considered a “liberal” if you support drones and violence as an answer to extremism.Recommend

  • Abid P Khan

    “…From what I read of Imran Khan its clear he is willing to say ANYTHING that will win him votes. He know that pretending to be a populist works in Pakistan. It sure worked for the Bhuttos.”
    Very rarely does a populist, dare to say anything which goes against the vein. That would be suicidal. He speaks a lot but is nudged by reality to wake out of the reverie.
    He has misunderstood the nation.

  • Sita Geeta

    Dear Imran Khan you have never payed taxes in Pakistan or UK why?

    Please answer Recommend