Former Trump aide Bolton reaches out to Imran in sign of global backing

ISLAMABAD/WASHINGTON: John Bolton, national security adviser to then US president Donald Trump, engaged in a conversation with Imran Khan, the chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), amidst political turmoil in the country, the opposition party said.

“Today, John Bolton, who previously served as the United Nations ambassador during the Bush administration and later as the National Security Advisor in the Trump administration, held a telephonic discussion with chairman Imran Khan,” tweeted Atif Khan, a Washington-based member of the party, late on Friday.

While no details were provided regarding the nature of the conversation, it is understood the two discussed the highly charged political climate in Pakistan.

A lifelong Republican, the party of Trump, Bolton served as White House national security adviser between April 2018 and September 2019 and is the author of “The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir.”

In his long, frequently controversial career in government, he held senior positions in the administrations of Ronald Reagan and the elder George Bush.

He is widely considered a foreign policy hawk, and is an advocate for military action and regime change by the US in Iran and North Korea. Last year, he created quite a stir when he casually admitted on television that he had helped plan attempted coups in foreign countries.

Following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in 2021, he wrote an opinion column for the Washington Post in which he advocated the imposition of anti-terrorist sanctions on Pakistan and “accelerating” the tilt toward India to avoid a “new 9/11”.

The call between Khan and Bolton followed a tweet on Wednesday by the latter criticising the government’s decision to set up military courts to try civilian members of the public accused of “attacking” defense installations such as the General Headquarters (GHQ).

“The treatment of […] Imran Khan hinders relations and raises tensions. Civilians should not be tried in military courts where they have no access to basic rights,” he wrote.

“The US has critical interests in Pakistan [and] continued instability and violence are not in anyone’s interests.”

Khan, who has publicly accused the US of colluding with the “local handlers” and the hodgepodge Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) coalition to oust him in April of last year, has been on a charm offensive lately.

The US chapter of his party has helped arrange in-person and telephonic contacts between prominent lawmakers such as Senator Jacky Rosen and Congressman Brad Sherman.

Zalmay Khalilzad, former diplomat and the architect of US withdrawal from Afghanistan, also continues to dwell on the political tug of war, much to the chagrin of the Foreign Office, urging Islamabad to change the “disastrous” course.

Separately, earlier this month, the powerful Foreign Relations Committee of the US Senate urged Islamabad to de-escalate tensions between the government and PTI. The chairman of the committee, Senator Bob Menendez, in the statement said he was “closely monitoring the dev­elopments in Pakistan,” which he described as “concerning.”

The opposition party of the former prime minister has also hired a lobbying firm in the US to improve its relations with decision-makers in Washington after accusing the country of toppling its government.

Washington-based Praia Consultants LLC was signed on a six-month contract in February by the American chapter of the party for a fee of $8,333 a month.

Lobbyists are paid persuaders who aim to influence government decisions, and often operate behind closed doors through quiet negotiations with politicians. They use a variety of tactics to construct their influence.

Documents revealed that the contract, signed February 21, aims to promote the party’s image and improve its relationship with the US government and institutions.

The results have been phenomenal and swift. Just this week, over 65 members of Congress expressed concerns about the volatile political situation in Pakistan and urged Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to pressurise the government of Shehbaz Sharif to improve the human rights situation in the country.

Muhammad Ahmad Saad
Muhammad Ahmad Saad
The writer is a former member of the staff.


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