KARACHI : A former US ambassador has said that there has been a divergence in Pakistan-US relationship since 2015 because of Islamabad’s alleged support for the Afghan Taliban and its nuclear policy.
The two countries want to see a political reconciliation between the Afghan Taliban and Kabul government, Richard Olson, who was US envoy to Pakistan from 2012 to 2015, told the Voice of America Urdu Service in a Facebook Live interview.
“This is an opportunity for Pakistan to rejuvenate ties with Washington by acting as a mediator in the Afghan political reconciliation process,” said Olson who retired in 2016 after his last assignment as US special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan.
“I think Pakistan needs a ‘do-less policy’ instead of a ‘do-more’ one, when it comes to supporting the Afghan Taliban,” he said.
Olson said that US President Donald Trump administration’s policy of pushing Pakistan to do more is not helpful for both sides. “I think the new government in Islamabad has changed in the sense that it has strategically aligned itself with China,” he added.
Olson said that Pakistan’s relationship with Beijing would be a key influencer in the Pak-US ties, adding that “in the future the US and China will be the main competitors on the global stage.”
“I think China also wants to see peace in Afghanistan and they would like them to be a part of its Silk Road Economic Belt initiative,” said the former diplomat.
Asked if the US military would leave Afghanistan anytime soon, he said: “We have been in Afghanistan for the last 17 years and we will not leave until a political settlement is reached there.”
Aasia Bibi case
Last week, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo added Pakistan to a blacklist of countries which violate religious freedoms – a move that triggered an angry rebuke from Islamabad.
Asked about the move, Olson said the United States has raised its concerns over the case Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman who was exonerated of blasphemy allegations by the Supreme Court – much to the anger of some religious groups.
Olson said Mike Pompeo designated Pakistan as a country of special concern with regard to religious freedoms because the United States is worried about how religious minorities are being treated in Pakistan.
Olson said that it was worrying to see how despite the country’s highest court acquitting Aasia Bibi the government still has her detained under the pressure of demonstrators.
He also advocated people-to-people contacts between the two countries, saying there is a huge Pakistani community in the US. He said a large chunk of Pakistani students come to acquire higher education in the US.
On a lighter note, the former US ambassador said that he misses eating biryani and wants to travel to the northern areas of Pakistan.