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Interview with Aamir Khan; Interview with Imran Khan

Aired October 12, 2012 - 15:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone, I'm Christiane Amanpour, and welcome to the weekend edition of our program, where we bring you the two big stories that we covered this week. We begin tonight in Pakistan, which is up in arms over the Taliban attack on Malala Yousafzai, the 14-year-old activist for girls' education, seen here in an interview with CNN's Reza Sayah last year.


MALALA YOUSAFZAI, EDUCATION ACTIVIST (through translator): I would like to build so many schools in this country because education is a must thing. If you have -- if you don't have educated people, so the Taliban will come to your area. But if you have educated people, they will not come.


AMANPOUR: She was shot on Tuesday, and the outrage of this attack on a defenseless school girl, seems to have united Pakistanis in condemning it. The country's powerful army chief, General Kayani, visited the hospital and called Malala's attackers cowards with a twisted ideology.

So will this be a turning point? Will it get the political and military leadership to stop prevaricating when it comes to these violent extremists?

Earlier this week as news of the attack was breaking, I spoke to Imran Khan, a popular and populist contender for Pakistan's premiership. He's the one-time cricket legend and would-be prime minister, as I said, and like many politicians, he blames the U.S. drone strikes for increasing radicalism in Pakistan.

Imran Khan has offered to pay for Malala's medical treatment, but in this existential fight for Pakistan's very future, he's fending off critics who charge that he and his party are too soft on the Taliban. They ask how do you negotiate with people who commit attacks like these and who vow to go on doing so?

I spoke with Imran Khan shortly after he led a protest on drone strikes, an unprecedented march to the Taliban heartland.


AMANPOUR: Imran Khan, thank you for joining me.


AMANPOUR: Imran, what was the point of the rally to the tribal areas, to Waziristan? You took a huge number of people, a massive convoy, but they didn't get to where you were trying to go.

KHAN: Well, the rally achieved its purpose. Basically it was to raise awareness in Pakistan -- well, there already is awareness in Pakistan. But outside Pakistan, there's drones, the drones are counterproductive. You don't kill your way to peace. There's 10 years of -- 11 years of war in Afghanistan, ages (ph) and Pakistan, what have we achieved? It's time to give peace a chance.

AMANPOUR: How do you plan to do this, because, look, the drones are there, whether you agree with them or not, basically because the Pakistani military and the state have not been able to tackle these militants.

KHAN: Christiane, everyone is sick of the militants. Everyone in Pakistan -- and I know, of course, in the U.S., they are tired of war. We are sick of militants and this war. Now the issue is how do we resolve it?

How -- what is the solution? Is this more of the same? I mean, if 11 years in Afghanistan of war hasn't brought peace or we are not anywhere near, eight years of Pakistani military actions, all we are doing is 140,000 Pakistani soldiers are stuck in the tribal areas.

Is this -- are we going to have more of the same? I can guarantee you that for 10 years, this can go on. And in the U.S. it might be a loss of money. In Pakistan, we are going under. This country is sinking under this.

AMANPOUR: Imran, obviously in the United States as well, there are increasing questions about the drone strikes. Now, interestingly, the population approves of these drone strikes by a majority. But there are new studies coming out, questioning their efficacy and also questioning how many civilians are being -- are being killed.

At the same time, in Pakistan itself, let me read you this portion of an editorial that was recently written in the Pakistani edition of the "Herald Tribune."

Quote, "Drone attacks began and continue because of the ideology of murder and not the other way around. Pandering to the militants and being an apologist ensures that both suicide fanatics and drone attacks continue, perhaps up to a point of no return."

He's basically criticizing you and saying that you're being an apologist for the Taliban and the militants' excesses, and that you're pandering to them without a solution as to how to actually stop this militance (ph).

KHAN: Christiane, I am the only Pakistani politician who has been throughout the tribal areas. Everywhere, whether there's fighting going on, which is in seven agencies, I'm the only politician who's been there, who knows the people, who's written a book -- a travel book -- who's read the history.

From day one I've been trying to make them understand that this -- there is no military solution. You're not going to win the war by sending your troops in. Drones are not going to win this war. The only way to win this war is win the hearts and minds of the people in tribal areas. I've been saying this for eight years.

AMANPOUR: So Imran, describe to me precisely, then, your strategy for winning them over, in other words, hearts and minds, winning them in a way that's not a military way.

KHAN: Well, Christiane, what I -- when we went to this rally, on the last border town of Waziristan, it's called Tank, we got the reception -- and they were -- we were received by the people of Waziristan. They got -- gave us this huge reception. The first time, someone had come to engage them.

And I'm telling you this is the key to peace. Win the people over to your side. So what I would do is, first of all, I would call for a cease- fire. In Pakistan, I would say the army stops all operations and effort (ph).

I would ask the U.S. not to do any drone attacks because they're counterproductive. Because what happens is Pakistan army, it seems like a collaborator of the U.S. So the militants target Pakistan army. And there's an unending chain of violence going on. So I would have a cease- fire, I would ask the U.S., don't do drone attacks.

We will tackle terrorism our way. We will guarantee that there is no terrorism from Pakistani side. And then, once there is -- it's not perceived as Pakistan is a hired gun of the U.S., Pakistan army is not a mercenary army of the U.S., we will make it our war. We will then gradually withdraw army and we will tell the tribal people to go and take over the area.

Believe me, it will -- they will be able to control the tribal area in a matter of months. The war will be over for Pakistan and they will be responsible for not allowing people to go on the other side.

AMANPOUR: Well, Imran --

KHAN: It's the only solution. Christiane, there is no other solution.

AMANPOUR: I hear you. I hear the passion. And of course, we're watching this military solution go on and on without end. So we know that this is a big problem.

But you have been quoted as saying that you would try to negotiate with the Taliban. You would try to do exactly what you're doing. And you said you could do it within 90 days. But the Taliban have said that that's just Dream-O-Vision, that you don't know what you're talking about.


KHAN: Christiane, look, I know their soul (ph). What is the Taliban? I mean, who are the Taliban? There's a Chinese proverb, "Know your enemy." Who are they? Since I -- my party, by the way, is by far the most popular party in Pakistan's tribal area, where the Taliban operate.

So how would I deal with it? I -- first of all, because I know, look, the ideological Taliban -- you know, when you say they want to impose their system of sharia or their way of life, that's -- I can tell you that they're not more than 3 percent to 5 percent of the whole fighters. They're not more than 3 percent to 5 percent.

The majority are either they are people who are reacting to Pakistan army, perceived as a mercenary army, and causing collateral damage, either they've gone that side or they have always -- this area has always resisted foreigners.

Throughout the history, from mullah (ph) army to the British, to the Russians, they will always resist foreigners.

Eventually, of course, peace lies with the U.S. leaving Afghanistan. But in the meanwhile, I would isolate the real hardcore, ideological Taliban from people who are reacting, you know, who are either the Pashtun nationalists -- because the Pashtun solidarity, all who are there because of collateral damage. And then criminals have joined them.

And then the old jihadi organizations made in the '80s to fight the Russians, which were under establishment, who have revolted against that army and also called the Punjabi Taliban, I would try and isolate them.

I would win the people over the tribal areas, because that's -- those are the ones who provide the foot soldiers. And once I win them over, I will win the war. That's the only way. Believe me, there is no other way.

AMANPOUR: Imran, all of this presupposes that you become the next leader, the next prime minister. Clearly, that seems to be what you're aiming for. And you and I have talked a lot about this in the past and how you have not wanted to necessarily enter government because you believe government is corrupt and the system is corrupt.

What is going to change? What is going to make you make whatever deals and strategies to win and, if necessary, make a coalition to be prime minister? Do you think now is the time?

KHAN: Christiane, I -- and I hope you come and cover this election. My party, Tehreek-e-Insaf, will sweep the elections. We -- our membership has crossed 10 million. It's unheard of. Membership, 10 million. The entire young -- the youth force (ph) in Pakistan is with Tehreek-e-Insaf, my party. There are 40 million new voters who are going to vote for the first time ever, total vote bank (ph) is about 85 million.

So 14 million young people, all wanting a change. It's the only party that is out of government. All the major parties are in government. The moment the elections -- the election campaign starts, Tehreek-e-Insaf will sweep Pakistan, my party. It'll sweep Pakistan because people want a change. They have seen all the parties over and over again.

The parties are riddled (ph) with corruption, have failed to provide governance, maximum unemployment, inflation, lawlessness. So people vote for change and change is the party of my party, which is the youngest party. And I think, in the election, we will win the election. We'll sweep the election.

But we do not want to come in a coalition, because coalition means that you will have to compromise and compromise with the status quo. We are an anti-status quo party. We cannot bring change by compromising with one of the parties which is part of the status quo in power.

So we will fight alone. If we -- if we get a clear majority, we will form government; otherwise, we'll sit in the opposition.

AMANPOUR: You must be watching the U.S. elections. Who would you like to see win? President Obama reelected or Mitt Romney become president?

KHAN: Well, either of them who stops this war. I want an anti-war president. We've prayed -- I've prayed for Obama because I wanted Obama to stop this insanity called war of terror, because terrorism is not -- you don't fight it with bombs and planes.

Terrorism is you winning hearts and minds of people. It was -- I want to -- I have a president in the U.S. who tries to wins in hearts and minds of the Muslim world.

That's how he'll win this insane war with billions and billions and trillions of dollars have been spent. What result has this war produced? I mean, over a trillion. I don't know how many trillion dollars spent, a million people killed? What is the result of this war? I don't even know.

I don't even know what victory is. So I want a -- we would want a president in Washington, you know, who's antiwar, who tries to give peace a chance.

AMANPOUR: Imran Khan, thank you very much for joining me.


AMANPOUR: Over the years, Pakistan has been so focused on India, its rival to the east, that many critics say it doesn't do enough to stop the enemy within. And yet India has its own troubles, including widespread corruption and a bloated and often dysfunctional bureaucracy. We talked to an unlikely crusader, one of Bollywood's brightest stars, when we return.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program. Here in the United States, we're used to activist actors. George Clooney has spent years fighting to end violence in Darfur and for an independent South Sudan.

Angelina Jolie regularly travels to the world hot spots. She's just back from visiting Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

But in India, it's a new concept, and Bollywood megastar Aamir Khan is leading the way.

For more than 20 years, Khan has been one of India's best-known actors and one of his most recent films, "3 Idiots," shattered box office records, making it the highest grossing Bollywood film of all time.

Before that, Khan's film, "Lagaan," which he also produced, was the third Indian movie ever to be nominated for an Academy award. But with success came questions and the desire to do more than just entertain.

And so Khan now hosts a hugely popular talk show that some even compare to "Oprah." It's called "Satyamev Jayte" or, in English, "The Truth Alone Prevails," and in each program, Khan tackles head-on some of the most serious social issues that plague India right now, breaking taboos on issues that have too long been swept under the carpet.

And I spoke to him during his recent trip to the United States.


AMANPOUR: Aamir Khan, thank you very much for joining me.

AAMIR KHAN, INDIAN ACTOR: It's a pleasure.

AMANPOUR: So you are a Bollywood megastar. And you've turned yourself into a very prominent social activist.

What are you doing here in the United States, activism or filming?

KHAN: Well, I'm filming a very major Bollywood action film down in Chicago. So we've been there for a couple of months and another one month or so to go of filming.

AMANPOUR: And how does it feel to sort of swap between, you know, what is fantasy and celluloid and the very hard and real and gritty topics that you -- that you do on your program?

KHAN: Well, I have to say that this program has been a hugely enriching experience and something that has really transformed my life in so many ways. But in a sense, I'm an entertainer and I hopefully make people laugh and cry.

AMANPOUR: Well, cry, probably in the program, because your program, you take on some very, very serious, serious issues, everything from female feticide to child abuse, child marriage, dowries, health and all sorts of things, untouchables.

KHAN: Well, I mean, I just feel that for years I had been thinking about trying to use my -- whatever goodwill I've earned over the years to try and see if I can use that in a way that I can give back to society. And I also feel that so many of us back home in India want to do so much, you know, for our society and country.

But often we don't have the right knowledge and information about what's happening. And we believe, my team, my team and I, we believe that with information and knowledge you empower a person and hopefully that changes his actions as well.

AMANPOUR: A lot of, as I said, the programs and the subjects that you tackle are taboo. People don't talk about them much.

KHAN: They hesitate to, yes.

AMANPOUR: Why is that?

KHAN: Well, you know, it's for various, you know, human reasons, I would say, you know, untouchability is one such issue that --

AMANPOUR: Which is the rigid caste system.

KHAN: -- is the caste system in India, which often people find very difficult to speak about. It's a very touchy topic. Child sexual abuse is a very sensitive topic. People want to, you know, kind of just --


AMANPOUR: Sweep it under the carpet.

KHAN: -- pretend it doesn't exist or that it's not happening. And whereas the figures show us -- numbers show us that it's about almost one in every second child goes through some sort of an abuse back home in India.

AMANPOUR: Which is really terrible, I mean

KHAN: Yes, it's terrible, yes.


AMANPOUR: You have a population of some billion --

KHAN: -- 1.2 billion --

AMANPOUR: -- exactly.

KHAN: -- that's right.

AMANPOUR: And you often -- well, usually, do not pre-announce. There's no pre-publicity for the topics you're going to --

KHAN: We don't.

AMANPOUR: -- you're going to do. Is that's because you don't want people to turn off or what?

KHAN: You know, these are very dark topics and very difficult topics. If I tell them beforehand that my topic is female feticide, a lot of people may not want to watch such a heavy topic. Or if it's child sexual abuse, they might decide, oh, yes, I know it happens, but I'm not really keen on watching this on a Sunday morning.

So I think that the topic itself may drive people away. But we believe that once a person sits to watch down, he still has a choice. I mean, he has the remote in his hand; he can change the channel; he can shut the TV off.

AMANPOUR: Well, I'm going to play you a clip --


AMANPOUR: -- of -- you mentioned female feticide. In fact, we have a clip, where you're interviewing a woman who's telling her story about when she first found out that she was pregnant. Let's look and.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (from captions): A sonography was done. Then I was given an injection. And as soon as I was given an injection, I became unconscious. When I regained consciousness, my child was no longer alive. I mean I was not pregnant anymore.

KHAN (from captions): Your baby was aborted? And you were not even aware of it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (from captions): I never knew anything.

KHAN (from captions): How many times has this happened to you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (from captions): Six times in eight years.


AMANPOUR: I mean, your reaction -- in fact, your reaction now and the reaction of that woman in the audience speaks volumes.

KHAN: Yes, yes.

These are really difficult topics and I have found that, you know, I'm -- in truth, this journey, I had -- I met with some people who've been through very difficult times. And then I sit, so close across them and they share with me what's -- what has happened with them.

It's extremely difficult for me to absorb that or deal with that. I'm not someone -- you know, as a journalist, you are exposed to a lot of things and you've seen life in a very raw manner. And you, over time, get to know how to deal with it.

I'm somebody who's not had that kind of an exposure and I find that when -- you know, I come across a lot of very difficult stories. It affects me very badly, like it would anyone.

AMANPOUR: Well, indeed, and this is a very difficult story. I mean, studies show that up to 12 million girls have been aborted in the past 30 years in your country.

So two questions: do people watch? What are the numbers like for your program?

And does it make a difference? Are the politicians listening?

KHAN: Well, what I'm really happy is I think the political (ph) class in the country has responded really well to the show. And I think that -- I genuinely believe that India, at this point of time, the sense that I get is that India is changing and wants to change.

And the success of the show really is an indicator of that, because we've had about, you know, it's difficult to calculate how many people in India have seen the show, but there are various numbers floating around, like 500 million and --

AMANPOUR: That's huge.

KHAN: -- and about --

AMANPOUR: Half a billion people.

KHAN: -- that's right. So --

AMANPOUR: So the politicians better listen, then. I mean, you met with the top elected leader in Rajasthan about this particular show and about this problem of female feticide.

KHAN: And I have to say that, you know, all credit to him and the chief justice of the state for taking such swift action on the issue. And I think that, you know, the political class (ph) in India has, in fact, responded very fast and very strongly to various of the topics that we -- that we discussed.

AMANPOUR: What other topics have you tackled that you feel that you've got at least a bite, at least some notice and awareness from the politicians?

KHAN: You know, I would have to say that almost all topics have had a very strong response. I think health care, for one, has had a very strong response. I think untouchability had a very, very deep and strong response on not only -- you know, when I say people, politicians are people as well, you know. They are affected by everything, like you and I.

AMANPOUR: Have there been critics who say, oh, you know, Aamir should just stick to acting?

KHAN: There have been some.

AMANPOUR: What do they say?

KHAN: Well, you see, the fact is that when we talk about issues like this, there are people who are affected by what we are saying. So for example, you know, there are various lobbies which don't like --

AMANPOUR: Because you're a threat to the system. If you've got 500 million constituents --

KHAN: Yes, yes.

AMANPOUR: -- it's a threat, right?

KHAN: It is. So I mean, we had imagined that there would be people who would not be happy, who -- anyway, people who are part of the problem would not want things to change. And so we were well aware that there would be some sort of an opposition to us. And that is there. But it's not something that I am or my team is affected by. We just --

AMANPOUR: So you're going to soldier on?

KHAN: We're going to soldier on and also I feel that, I think, some - - I'm a very idealistic kind of a person. I believe that even people who are part of the problem can become part of the solution. I believe that.

AMANPOUR: Aamir Khan, thank you very much indeed.

KHAN: Thank you. Thank you so much.

AMANPOUR: Thank you for joining me.


AMANPOUR: As we've seen India, which is the world's largest democracy, its aura of success and stability, is being threatened by rampant corruption and political squabbling.

The situation cries out for a charismatic leader. In fact, we have a thousand of them, when we return.



AMANPOUR: And finally, two troubled neighbors, Pakistan and India, two often at war with each other and, more often than not, struggling with demons and divisions within. But imagine those countries united by ideals that transcend those differences. In other words, imagine a world full of Mahatma Gandhis.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): These students, 1,000 strong, have chosen a wonderful way to celebrate Gandhi's 143rd birthday this month. The man who led the non-violent struggle for India's independence became an inspiration for those who came after, like Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi.

Now if only these students can follow Gandhi's example and not merely dress the part.


AMANPOUR: That's it for the weekend edition of our program. Thank you for watching and goodbye from New York.