In a statement to the Afghan ambassador to Pakistan, Shireen M. Mazari, spokesperson for the chairman of Pakistan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf Imran Khan, said on Saturday that misunderstandings had arisen out of a remark about the treatment of an Afghan Taliban leader at the Shaukat Khanum cancer hospital in Lahore.
This came after media reports emerged Saturday that Khan reportedly confirmed that a top Taliban leader, who has cancer, was treated for his illness at the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital & Research Center, a hospital in the Pakistani city of Lahore.
The reports sparked outrage among Afghan political analysts, who said this confirms Pakistan’s support of militant groups including that of the Taliban group.
But in the statement, Mazari said: “I wish to clear any misunderstanding that may have arisen out of a remark he made in a television interview about the treatment of an Afghan Taliban leader at the Shaukat Khanum cancer hospital in Lahore – which was subsequently taken out of context and also misinterpreted by segments of the Pakistani media.”
“The chairman was discussing the issue of free treatment of 70 percent of cancer patients at the Shaukat Khanum hospital and that a number of these patients are Pathans including Afghans. That is one reason why the chairman decided to raise funds to build the second Shaukat Khanum cancer hospital in Peshawar.”
Mazari went on to say: “In passing, he also referred to receiving a letter from an Afghan Taliban leader who had apparently received treatment at the Lahore hospital.”
Mazari said: “The hospital does not ask for political or religious affiliations of its patients who all receive the same quality care whether it is free or being paid for, the revelation that an Afghan Taliban leader had been treated at the hospital only came about when that person sent a thank you letter. At the time that he was undergoing treatment there was no information about his political or religious associations except that he was an Afghan in need of treatment.”
The statement went on to read: “So I hope you will understand that as a humanitarian hospital which offers free cancer treatment to 70 percent of its patients without discrimination, it is not possible for anyone to recognize, amongst the Afghans being treated, who is a Taliban and who is not. Nor would you or your government want us to stop offering treatment to Afghans who are our brethren and whom we have been hosting for over two decades now in Pakistan.”