WASHINGTON: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday said he would try to meet the Taliban in an effort to persuade the group to meet the Afghan government, as the United States seeks to end the nearly 18-year-old war.
"I will meet the Taliban and I will try my best to get them to talk to the Afghan government," said Imran while speaking at the United States Institute of Peace on the last day of his three-day maiden visit to Washington.
Imran said a Taliban delegation had wanted to meet him a few months back but he did not because of opposition from the Afghan government.
“The US and the Taliban are getting closer to a deal that is expected to be centred on a US pledge to withdraw troops in exchange for a Taliban promise not to let Afghanistan be used as a base for terrorism,” officials say.
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However, the Taliban refused to negotiate with the government, denouncing it as a US puppet, but in an effort to foster Afghan reconciliation, a 60-strong delegation of citizens met the Taliban for two days of talks in Qatar from Sunday.
Pakistan's role in the peace negotiations is a delicate one. Afghanistan accuses Pakistan of supporting the Taliban, a charge Pakistan denies, saying it has suffered heavily from the fighting.
The US also pressed Islamabad to do more to curb militant groups based in its territory. Even as talks continue, the Taliban and the government have continued fighting. Afghan government forces mistakenly killed seven civilians, including children, in an attack on militants south of the capital, a provincial official said on Monday, the latest victims of a war undiminished by peace talks.
Imran meets Pompeo
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on Prime Minister Imran Khan at Pakistan House in Washington on Tuesday. Expressing satisfaction over his wide-ranging talks with President Trump at the White House the other day, the prime minister said that convergence on promoting a political solution in Afghanistan had created the opportunity for regional peace and stability.
He said a peaceful and stable Afghanistan was vital for Pakistan while emphasising the importance of close collaboration between Pakistan and US to advance that objective.
The prime minister said a strong Pakistan-US partnership remained vital for the promotion of mutual interests of the two countries as well as broader regional peace, stability and prosperity.
Reiterating his government’s support for a broad-based and enduring Pakistan-US relationship, the prime minister emphasised the need to further enhance and diversify the bilateral content of the relationship in a wide range of areas.
The prime minister also spoke about his government’s successes in countering the scourge of terrorism and his initiatives to build peace in the region.
He noted that the Pakistan government had taken countless administrative and legal measures to mainstream madrassas.
Imran underscored the various initiatives taken to advance this objective with regard to India.
The prime minister underlined that the peace dividend for both countries would be enormous with peaceful resolution of all outstanding disputes and would usher in an era of peace, progress and prosperity in South Asia.
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Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood, Ambassador Asad M Khan and Aftab A Khokher Additional Secretary (Americas) joined the meeting. Secretary Pompeo was accompanied by Under-Secretary for Political Affairs David Hale, Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells and Paul W Jones US Charge d’ Affaires in Islamabad.
Imran wants Pakistan-US ties ‘based on mutual trust’
The PM expressed the desire to establish unconditional bilateral relations between Islamabad and Washington based on mutual trust and friendship.
“We would like to have a relationship based on mutual trust, as equals, as friends and not like before when Pakistan wanted aid and in return it was asked to perform certain tasks for the US,” said the prime minister.
“I am happy to leave the US now, as we have relationship based on mutual interest, which is peace in Afghanistan,” he added.
Prime Minister Imran said that he hated the idea of asking for funds not just from the US but from any other country. “Because, aid has been one of the biggest curses for my country… what it has done is it has created the dependency syndrome,” he remarked.
“When I returned home from Saudi Arabia, everybody asked what have you got from there, as if I went there asking for money… and I think it’s humiliating for a country. Countries rise because of self-respect and self-esteem and no country rises by begging for money.
“I would like to have a dignified relationship with the US, where never again should we have this humiliating phase… I can tell you as a Pakistani never did I feel more humiliated when Osama bin Laden was taken out in Pakistan by the US troops.
“We want to have a relationship of friendship and it doesn’t really matter you know as one friend can be rich and the other can be not that rich, but so what… it’s all about dignified relationship. That’s what I hope to have from here.”
The premier also reiterated the desire to have friendly relations with all immediate neighbours of the country, including India.
He said that his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government reached out to all neighbouring countries to iron out differences and rebuild confidence to establish better trade ties after coming to power last year. Reuters
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