–FO says Pakistan moving in positive direction with Kartarpur Corridor
–Meeting comes amid Afghan peace talks, US blacklisting of BLA
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan will meet United States President Donald Trump on July 22 in Washington DC, Foreign Office Spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal confirmed on Thursday.
Addressing a weekly press briefing in Islamabad, the FO spokesperson said the prime minister will visit the US on the invitation of President Trump to discuss bilateral ties with a special focus on the peace talks between the US and the Afghan Taliban.
However, the agenda of the meeting is still being developed through diplomatic channels, the spokesperson explained.
The first reports about the potential meeting came last month when Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said the PM was expected to meet the US president soon. At the time, he said that PM could not visit the US due to the budget session.
Moreover, Qureshi had told a local media outlet ongoing talks between the Taliban and the US would pave way for the two leaders to shake hands. “It is not a pre-condition but the environment [for a meeting] will be more favourable if the talks move forward,” he had said.
The confirmation of the meeting by the FO came a day after the US State Department on Tuesday designated the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) as a global terrorist group, paving the way for similar actions by the United Nations (UN) and other states.
When asked, Faisal said this is an acknowledgement of our [Pakistan’s] stance on the outfit.
Separately, with regard to internal and neighbourly relations, the FO spokesperson said Pakistan has a crucial role in the continuous progress of the Afghan peace process.
Dr Faisal further commented that they were moving in a positive direction with regard to the Kartarpur Corridor’s inauguration.
The occupying Indian Army martyred 40 innocent civilians in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK), the spokesperson added, noting that they were concerned about the Hurriyet leaders’ arrests and worsening health.
Amid deteriorating relations, PM Imran, in an interview with Washington Post on December 7, 2018, made it clear that Pakistan would not be a hired gun for the US.
“I would never want to have a relationship where Pakistan is treated like a hired gun — given money to fight someone else’s war. We should never put ourselves in this position again. It not only cost us human lives, the devastation of areas bordering Afghanistan, but it also cost us our dignity. We would like a proper relationship with the US.”
“Like the US, Pakistan too seeks peace in Afghanistan which is in its interest as well,” the PM had said, as he assured his government “will do its best”.
He, however, had added that putting “pressure on the Taliban is easier said than done as about 40 per cent of Afghanistan is now out of the government’s hands”.
“I talked for years about how there was no military solution in Afghanistan, and they called me ‘Taliban Khan’. If you did not agree with the US policy, you were [thought to be] anti-American. Now I’m happy that everyone realises there is only a political solution . . . From Pakistan’s point of view, we do not want the Americans to leave Afghanistan in a hurry like they did in 1989.”
“The last thing we want is to have chaos in Afghanistan. There should be a settlement this time. In 1989, what happened was the Taliban emerged out of the chaos.”
PM Imran had asserted that “there are no sanctuaries in Pakistan” as he ruled out the presence of Taliban in the country.
“When I came into power, I got a complete briefing from the security forces. They said that we have time and time again asked the Americans, ‘Can you tell us where the sanctuaries are, and we will go after them?’ There are no sanctuaries in Pakistan,” he had said.
He had further asserted that “if there are a few hundred, maybe 2,000 to 3,000 Taliban who move into Pakistan, they could easily move into these Afghan refugee camps.”
Talking about the relations with the US, marred by distrust, he had said “Who would not want to be friends with the US?”, while seeking improved relations with the world superpower.
On the US allegations that Pakistan harbours Taliban, the premier had recalled that “in the 1980s, we collaborated with the U.S. in the Soviet jihad there. Then, in 1989, when the Soviets packed up and left, the US did too. Pakistan was left with militant groups and 4 million Afghan refugees. If we had stayed neutral after 9/11, I reckon we would have saved ourselves from the devastation.”
By becoming the front-line state for the US in the war on terror, he regretted, Pakistan “went through hell.”
On November 20, 2018, Imran and Trump engaged in a war of words on Twitter after the US president accused Pakistan of “doing nothing” despite billions of dollars in aid.
“We no longer pay Pakistan the billions because they would take our money and do nothing for us, Bin Laden being a prime example, Afghanistan being another,” the US president had tweeted.
Responding to Trump’s statements, PM Imran had said that Islamabad had decided to “participate in the US War on Terror” although no Pakistani was involved in the 9/11 attacks.
“Pakistan suffered 75,000 casualties in this war and over $123 billion was lost,” he had added, of which “US ‘aid’ was a minuscule $20bn”.
In addition to economic losses, PM Imran had highlighted the impact of the US war on Pakistan’s tribal areas.
“Can Mr Trump name another ally that gave such sacrifices?” he had asked.
“He [Trump] needs to be informed about historical facts. Pak has suffered enough fighting US war. Now we will do what is best for our people & our interests.”