ISLAMABAD: A senior aide of the US President Donald Trump is due to arrive in Islamabad today (Tuesday) for follow up discussions with Pakistani authorities on resetting the troubled ties between the two nations as well as a renewed push for Afghan peace talks.
The US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Ambassador Alice Wells would hold meeting with senior officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Muhammad Faisal on Monday.
“The aim would be to follow up on discussions between Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Secretary of State Michael Pompeo with a view to further strengthening bilateral relations,” he added.
The main focus of Wells visit would be to reset the troubled ties between the two countries. But these efforts depend on whether the two countries would be able to find a common ground on the Afghan endgame.
Recently, Pakistan released a key Taliban figure, apparently on the demand of the US and Afghanistan. Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar was deputy to the late Taliban Supreme leader Mullah Muhammad Omar. He was arrested from Karachi in a joint Pakistan-US operation in 2010.
Taliban have confirmed his release, although Pakistan has not said anything to this effect officially. The US has long been pushing Pakistan to either persuade the Taliban to come to the negotiating table or take action against their leadership allegedly hiding on its soil.
Pakistan, however, insists that bringing Taliban to the negotiating table is a shared responsibility of all the regional countries. The US is already in touch with Taliban’s political office in Qatar. Last month, the US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad reportedly held talks with the Taliban representatives in Doha.
Ambassador Wells would also call on Finance Minister Asad Umar. Her visit comes on the heels of the Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to China where the two countries discussed whole gamut of their relationship including the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
Official sources indicated that the US was keenly following the PM’s maiden trip to Beijing particularly with a focus on whether China would announce any bailout package for Pakistan.
The US is increasingly concerned over the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, insisting that part of Pakistan’s economic woes is because of the multibillion dollar project. Both Islamabad and Beijing have always rejected the US assertion.
Ambassador Wells visit comes just a day before an International Monetary Fund (IMF) delegation begins a two-week trip to Islamabad to finalise the possible bailout package.
Not long ago, Secretary Mike Pompeo cautioned the IMF not to approve any bailout package for Pakistan if it was meant for repaying the Chinese loans. The IMF has already announced that it would seek details of the CPEC and loans Pakistan has obtained from China.