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August 2, 2019

Improved Pak-US ties linked to irreversible action against terrorists

Top Story

August 2, 2019

WASHINGTON: The Trump administration has tied Pakistan’s consistent and irreversible action against terrorists and militants on its soil to sustained and improved relations with the United States.

"Pakistan has undertaken obligations to the international community under the Financial Action Task Force, and has agreed to a series of steps that intend to implement counter terrorism financing, to ensure the arrest and prosecution of individuals implicated in terrorist and extremist activities," a senior State Department official said here yesterday.

Addressing a special briefing after Prime Minister Imran Khan's visit to the US, the official acknowledged Pakistan's efforts to counter terrorism while insisting that the administration encourages additional steps that are consistent and irreversible.

"There is an action plan, it’s discreet, it’s tangible, it’s measurable, and we look to see what actions Pakistan will takeand how we can be supportive in helping Pakistan to achieve those objectives," the official said. "We heard a message of political commitment to upholding FATF and it’s important to see that political commitment then translated into specific actions."

The official said the civilian and military leadership of the country appeared unified on all concerning issues, and underscored that FATF obligations were part of the prime minister's 'Naya Pakistan' vision and what he had laid out for his government.

"So there's a fact-based check list, and we will certainly be looking at how Pakistan is able to implement those commitments," the official maintained. During his three-day visit to the United States, the prime minister had stated that there were about 30,000 to 40,000 armed people in Pakistan who have been trained and fought in some part of Afghanistan or Kashmir.

Reconnecting with the PM's statement, the official said those were battle-hardened individuals who operate from Pakistani soil and it was important that the Pakistani government take steps that preclude those groups' ability from fund raising.

Answering a question, the official said no US administration put more pressure on Pakistan to end its support for terrorist groups. "The suspension of military assistance, reduction in civilian assistance, the tenor of our diplomatic engagement over the past two years has reflected the priority this administration attaches - which is very much a shared objective of India, of the region, of the international community. But when Pakistan takes positive steps we are prepared to recognize it as positive steps," the official remarked.

Commenting on the prime minister's visit, the official said it demonstrated that the more both countries could work together in areas of overlapping critical interest - such as peace in Afghanistan - the door opens to broader and deeper cooperation.

"The quality, the warmth, the breadth and depth of the relationship is going to be a function of our ability to work together on the most important national security issues facing our government; and obviously that's peace, regional stability .. so the fact that this visit happened after the suspension of assistance; after the South Asia plan which laid out a serious set of concerns with respect to Pakistan actions - reflects that there has been some progress in that relationship .. and we welcome that progress," the official said.

He further said there was more to be done and there were more ways to grow the relationship. The official indicated that the administration expects to enhance trade and investment with Pakistan and was willing to explore business opportunities to further the engagement.

The official also welcomed the PM's message to engage directly with the Afghan President Ghani on measures that could improve confidence and strengthen ties between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"The crux of the issue for the last 18 years is the future that Pakistan envisions for itself and its relationship with Afghanistan and other non-state actors," the official said, adding that "Pakistan is taking steps; whether there's a seizure of assets or closure or takeover of the administration of certain madrassas, the detention of individuals - obviously the detention of Hafiz Saeed - these steps have also been taken in the past."

Hoping that the Taliban could be brought to table before September, and for a peaceful political settlement with the Afghan government, the official announced that the US has a long-term commitment to Afghanistan, and a long-term interest in the stability of the region, and "even as we are discussing the peace process we are engaged with the international donor community to ensure that we are thinking about how it can support the implementation of a peace plan."

America, the official concluded, had a key interest in the region that will continue. Recognizing Kashmir as a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan, the official said the US stands ready to assist in resolving the issue.

President Trump had offered to mediate on Kashmir, and taking the cue from the statement, the department said that the US would like to see improved relations between Pakistan and India. "We recognize that Kashmir has been a bilateral issue but there are opportunities as Pakistan takes steps that builds confidence in its own efforts to counterterrorism" for a constructive dialogue.

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