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PM’s visit to US: Doors open to Pakistan for enduring ties

Top Story

July 21, 2019

WASHINGTON: The Trump administration has termed Prime Minister Imran Khan's visit to the White House an opportunity to repair relations and strengthen cooperation for an enduring partnership.

A senior US administration official on Friday said they wanted to send a message to Pakistan that the "door is open" to repair relations and build an enduring partnership if Islamabad "changes its policies"about terrorists and militants. The White House has also prepared a list of demands that does not necessarily portray the convergence Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had signaled yesterday. Imran will be asked about the women rights and freedom of media in the country, as well as release of Shakeel Afridi and concrete action against the militant outfits. "We are not under any illusion," the official said, adding the administration will keep monitoring Pakistan's actions against terrorist networks.

The discussion between President Trump and Imran Khan will cover a range of issues from trade and energy to business and counter terrorism. The administration also seeks "concrete cooperation" from Islamabad to help bring peace in Afghanistan. The summit is an incentive to Pakistan so it could pressure the Taliban to come to the negotiating table and be part of the intra-Afghan peace process, the official maintained during a media briefing. "The president is most interested in encouraging Pakistan's assistance in the Afghan peace process," the official said, acknowledging the efforts made so far. Trump will also insist that Imran Khan government should release Shakeel Afridi. "We will judge Pakistan on how it treats Shakeel Afridi in jail," the official said, adding the US had raised the issue multiple times and will keep at it until Afridi was free. It also believes that Afridi was unjustly imprisoned.

To a question, the official ruled out restoration of security assistance to Pakistan saying there is no change in the policy. However, he said, the administration could consider changes in some areas if Pakistan takes sustained, decisive and irreversible steps against terrorist and militant groups. The aid was suspended early last year after President Trump took office. "We will consider changing that suspension on certain items if Pakistan meets our security concerns both in Afghanistan, and with regard to some of the externally focus groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad. But as of now, there is no change to that suspension," the official said. The US is also monitoring initial steps by Pakistan to freeze assets of certain groups and arrest of Hafiz Saeed. The official recalled that it is the seventh time since 2001 that Hafiz Saeed was arrested, adding that the administration is not taking these steps at face value and has not made a final evaluation. "We will wait and see if the steps are made irreversible and sustainable, and not just window dressing," the official said.

Keeping tabs on Pakistan's efforts in this regard, the official repeated that, "we are clear eyed about the history here. We're under no illusion about the support that we could see from Pakistan's military and intelligence services to these groups. So we will look for concrete action." Recalling past when Hafiz Saeed was arrested and released numerous times, the official said the US would like to see that Islamabad "actually prosecutes these people" for the sake of protecting its own sovereignty and independence. "Quite frankly, the previous arrest of Hafiz Saeed has not made a difference and the LeT has been able to operate. So we're monitoring the situation." President Trump would also encourage Prime Minister Khan to open transit trade across the region so that the Indian products could reach Afghanistan and beyond, according to the administration official.

Meanwhile, PTI Senator Faisal Javed Saturday said the Pakistani diaspora in the US will stage a landmark rally in Washington in the honour of PM Imran Khan and preparations are underway. According to PTI central media department, PTI Senator Faisal Javed had reached Washington to oversee the rally's preparations. Besides PM Khan’s address to the gathering, an exclusive documentary film on his historic struggle will also be displayed. Talking about the event, Senator Faisal said the Pakistani community is eager to welcome their beloved leader and people from every state of the US and other countries, including Canada, were reaching Washington DC to be part of this historic moment. He said history will be made tomorrow evening at 4:00pm Capital Arena. Meanwhile, the newly-appointed central Information Secretary of PTI Ahmad Jawad has assumed his responsibilities. He has replaced Omar Sarfaraz Cheema, who has been notified as the party’s vice president.

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