US stance towards Pakistan ‘unchanged’

Foreign minister briefs Senate panel on current state of Islamabad’s relations with Washington

Our Correspondent January 17, 2018
Foreign minister briefs Senate panel on current state of Islamabad’s relations with Washington. PHOTO: REUTERS

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif on Wednesday said tension between Pakistan and the United States still persisted despite recent diplomatic efforts to find a way out of the prevailing impasse.

He said this while briefing the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs just a day after a key aide of President Donald Trump, wrapping up her two-day trip to Islamabad, again urged Pakistan to address the issue of alleged presence of the Haqqani network on its soil.

Trump's point person for the region Alice Wells, however, offered a ‘new relationship’ to Pakistan while underlining the critical role of Islamabad in bringing about peace in Afghanistan.

Speaking against the backdrop of current stalemate in ties between the two countries, the foreign minister told the parliamentary panel that the US had not changed its stance nor had Pakistan budged from its position.

He, however, emphasised that Pakistan wanted a ‘balance’ relationship with the United States. He said the country’s civil and military leadership had conveyed to the US that Pakistan did not need any aid.

Not worried over Trump’s ‘no more tweet’, says Khawaja Asif

The US recently suspended the entire security assistance to Pakistan until an action against alleged hideouts of the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network.

The move was a follow-up to Trump’s New Year tweet in which he accused Pakistan of ‘lies and deceit’.

Answering a question, Asif said he was not aware of a visit by any Afghan Taliban delegation to Pakistan.

Reports suggested that a three-member delegation from the Taliban’s Qatar office is currently in Islamabad to explore the possibility of re-starting the stalled peace process.

The delegation also reportedly visited Turkey earlier this week as part of the latest push to revive the moribund peace process. However, there was no official confirmation about the visit as well as the engagement of the Taliban delegation.

No alliance with US anymore, says Khawaja Asif

The development came at a time when relations between Pakistan and the US are at its lowest because of widening differences on how to deal with the Afghan Taliban insurgency.

During the briefing, Senator Farhatullah Babar questioned as to why the recent religious decree issued by more than 1,800 ulema, forbidding suicide attacks was silent about similar bombings across the border.

“Suicide bombing, whether it takes place in Pakistan or on the moon or anywhere, is against the preaching of Islam,” Asif clarified while responding to Babar’s question.

The foreign minister also insisted that the government was not contemplating mainstreaming jihadi outfits.

On the Road and Belt initiative, he said China was keen to extend CPEC to Afghanistan.

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