PM’s US visit: Gen Bajwa to play key role in serious business, say analysts

July 20, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan is traveling to the United States tomorrow hoping the arrest of Hafiz Saeed and progress in Afghan peace talks will help secure a favorable reception, a British...

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ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan is traveling to the United States tomorrow (Sunday) hoping the arrest of Hafiz Saeed and progress in Afghan peace talks will help secure a favorable reception, a British wire service reported.

Khan is expected to try to mend fences and attract much needed investment during his meeting with US President Donald Trump in exchange for assurances of full cooperation in ending the war in Afghanistan and fighting militant threats.

Trump, a property developer turned reality TV star, and Khan, World Cup-winning captain of the Pakistan cricket team, both came to office after achieving fame away from politics and the personal chemistry between the two may be decisive.

“A lot will depend on the kind of mood that President Trump and indeed Prime Minister Imran Khan find themselves in,” said Farzana Sheikh, associate fellow at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London.

“Neither of them is known to be particularly predictable.”

Battling to stave off a balance of payments crisis and forced to seek a bailout from the International Monetary Fund, Pakistan is badly in need of foreign investment but security is likely to be the main focus of the visit.

Khan will be accompanied by the powerful army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa. Analysts believe he will play a key role in behind-the-scenes discussions where much of the serious business of the visit will take place, with the military looking to persuade Washington to restore aid and cooperation.

It’s a visit which is closely being monitored because they need money.

Last year, Trump cut off hundreds of millions of dollars in security assistance to Pakistan, accusing Islamabad of offering “nothing but lies and deceit” while giving safe haven to terrorists, a charge angrily rejected by Islamabad.

Khan is likely to stress Pakistan’s role in bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table with the United States.

Trump has made no secret of his desire to end US military involvement in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s cooperation will be essential to any deal to end the war and ensure the country does not become a base for militant groups like Islamic State.

“The United States, Russia and China know that without Pakistan’s co-operation, there can be no settlement in Afghanistan,” Farzana Sheikh said. India will be watching the talks closely.


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