Easing tensions : ‘Maverick’ McCain arrives in Pakistan

Senator to meet country’s top civil and military leadership.

Kamran Yousaf August 13, 2011

ISLAMABAD: Former US presidential candidate and senior Republican Senator John McCain is arriving today in the capital as part of ongoing efforts by the US and Pakistan to repair ties damaged by the Abbottabad raid on May 2.

McCain, 75, is also a senior member of the US Senate’s Arms Services Committee, which has the power to approve or deny military assistance to Pakistan.

He is the most senior US figure to visit Islamabad since Washington withheld $800 million in military assistance to Pakistan last month.

The US move was in reaction to Pakistan Army’s decision to expel American military trainers in wake of the Bin Laden debacle that has continued to cast a shadow on the relationship between the two countries.

Senator McCain, who visited the country on several occasions in the past, will meet Pakistan’s top civil and military leadership to discuss the ongoing tensions, said a Foreign Office official.

McCain is considered by the Pakistani policymakers and the military establishment amongst those US officials who understand the country’s position better in the ongoing battle against the militancy.

Following the Abbottabad incident, McCain was amongst few senior US lawmakers, who opposed any move to sever ties with Pakistan.

“To try to assist them and try to move towards democracy in my view is a very difficult … path but extremely (necessary). The other options are not really viable. For a ten-year period we cut off relations with Pakistan, things got worse. And so to do that obviously would not be the answer,” he argued during the debate in the US Senate on dealing with Pakistan following Bin Laden’s death.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 13th, 2011.