Despite PM Imran Khan’s unrealistic aspiration to have a relationship with the USA like the one Washington has with New Delhi, Pak-US relations have come down to a single point: Counter-terrorism cooperation. This is what emerged after US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman held talks with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, National Ssecurity Adviser Moeed Yusuf and COAS Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa. Summing up the two-day visit she told the media the two sides will be continuing their counterterrorism dialogue as required by the changing environment. Without mincing words she said, “Our conversations have been forthright, deep and direct.” No surprise, as this is what Ms Sherman had said in Mumbai also, a day before coming to Pakistan: No building of a broad relationship with Pakistan and no interest in returning to the days of a hyphenated India-Pakistan.
Sherman was even abrasive when talking about the possibility of talks between US President Joe Biden and Pakistani PM Imran Khan. “We totally understand that every country wants a call from the President,” but the US President is too busy to talk to everyone. So President Biden will phone Mr Khan whenever the former gets time. This is humiliating. It’s time the Pakistan government stops using informal channels to try arranging a telephone call between the two.
Afghanistan was high on the agenda of the National Security Committee moot on Friday. Mr Khan stressed the need for a ‘coordinated policy’ on Afghanistan and directed the setting up of a dedicated cell to synergize various streams of efforts on the neighbouring country, including international coordination for humanitarian assistance and effective border management. Terrorist attacks are emerging as a serious threat in Afghanistan as shown by the Kunduz attack, for which the IS-K claimed responsibility, that killed scores of Shia worshippers. Earlier about 170 people had died in the Kabul airport attack carried out by the same network.
Instead of diverting all attention to Afghanistan, the PM needs to give priority to the internal security of his own country. There is a need to stop appeasing the local violent extremist groups. Unless they are taken care of, there is a likelihood of the Tehrik Taliban Pakistan, IS-K or other terrorist organisations using groups like the Tehrik Labbaik Pakistan as franchises. The government needs to urgently implement the National Action Plan, something it has put on the backburner over the last three years.