Imran Khan said he wants to mend relations with the US despite accusing it of treating Pakistan as a “slave”, signalling a desire to work with Washington after claiming it conspired to remove him as prime minister earlier this year. In an interview with the Financial Times following an assassination attempt this month, Khan said he no longer “blamed” the US and wants a “dignified” relationship if re-elected. He also warned that Pakistan was close to default and criticised the country’s IMF programme. “As far as I’m concerned it’s over, it’s behind me ,” he said of the alleged conspiracy, which both Sharif and the US deny. “The Pakistan I want to lead must have good relationships with everyone, especially the United States. Our relationship with the US has been as of a master-servant relationship, or a master-slave relationship, and we’ve been used like a hired gun. But for that I blame my own governments more than the US.” Khan criticised Pakistan’s IMF programme, first started under his government in 2019 but revived by Sharif, for pushing austerity measures like higher fuel prices at a time of painful inflation. “When you contract the economy, and some of the IMF measures make your economy shrink, how are you supposed to pay off your loans, because your loans keep increasing?” he said. “Consumption has crashed?.?.?.?So my question is: How are we going to pay our debts? We are certainly going to head towards default.” Khan admitted that a visit to Moscow a day before the Ukraine invasion in February – for which he claims the US retaliated against him – was “embarrassing” but said the trip was organised months in advance. The former prime minister argued that early elections were the only way to restore political stability. He did not outline specific plans for the economy if in office but warned “it could be beyond anyone” if elections are not held soon. In the interview, Khan accused the military of having previously weakened independent institutions and, together with political dynasties like the Sharif family, having acted as if “they’re above law”. “The army can play a constructive role in my future plans for Pakistan,” he said. “But it has to be that balance. You cannot have an elected government which has the responsibility given by the people, while the authority lies somewhere else.” Separately, addressing participants of long march, Imran Khan questioned were the “handlers” of the country’s incumbent rulers not worried about Pakistan. “Were they unable to realise what the robbers being imposed in the country do with it?” he said. “Who is responsible for this?” Imran raised a question during his address about who was responsible for “placing these thieves” – referring to the current coalition government – over the nation. He said the people were asking this question and history was noting who was responsible for what was happening with the country. “They think by silencing people and what was done with Arshad Sharif … the nation is in shock and asking whether this is the way to run the country?” Imran said it was a decisive moment in the country’s history and invited the people to take part in the PTI’s long march to Islamabad. He also addressed the allegations levelled against him of making the appointment of the army chief controversial, saying, “I never made it controversial. “I say that the army chief should be appointed on merit. I don’t want an army chief, judge, IG or NAB head of my choice. I want the best people on the basis of merit.” The former premier went on to allege that the country’s incumbent rulers wanted to appoint people of their choice to top posts, claiming the Islamabad IG’s appointment by PM Shehbaz was such an example. “Because he (the IG) is corrupt, he will now serve him (the PM), he will do every unlawful task given by him.” On proceedings on a defamation suit filed by PM Shehbaz against a British daily, Imran said the premier was mistaken that he could call a judge and direct them to issue orders as per his will. “He is in deep trouble … It will be the biggest challenge for Shehbaz Sharif now that he will have to explain the allegations that he has levelled against the newspaper in the court. And he has levelled some serious allegations,” the PTI chief said.