US seeks economic revival plan from PTI

Biden administration officials ask for PTI’s stance on govt-IMF understanding

Rizwan Shehzad   February 18, 2023
PTI chief Imran Khan gestures during an interview with VOA. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB


Notwithstanding its public posturing against the United States, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) is making behind-the-scene efforts to repair ties with Washington as the former ruling party has not only abandoned its anti-US narrative but has also discussed its future plans to pull the country out of the economic abyss with the world’s super power.

The first sign that PTI chief Imran Khan’s party was no longer seeking to further antagonise the US, rather wanted rapprochement, was a meeting between a visiting US delegation led by US Department of State Counsellor Derek Chollet with PTI Senior Vice President Fawad Chaudhry on Thursday night.

Chollet, being US Secretary of State Antony J Blinken’s point man, is visiting Islamabad as part of a renewed push by the two countries to expand their cooperation beyond security and Afghanistan.

Since Imran’s ouster in April last year, this was the first publicly admitted meeting between the two sides, which came on the heels of PTI chief’s narrative makeover of the alleged regime-change conspiracy after months-long bashing of the US and its officials.

During the meeting, sources privy to the development revealed that the US officials asked the PTI to share its economic revival plan amid an ongoing financial crunch coupled with political volatility.

As the PTI tried to restore relations by assuring that it would abandon the anti-US narrative in the future, they added, the officials of the Biden administration sought the PTI’s stance on the government’s understanding that it reached with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The sources revealed that a meeting was expected between the US officials and the PTI’s economic team in the coming days to discuss the matters further.

Following the meeting with the economic team, they said, a meeting could also take place between the US officials and PTI chief Imran.

They said that Clinton White, the counsellor of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), Elizabeth Horst, the principal deputy assistant secretary for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs at the State Department, Donald Blome, the US ambassador to Pakistan, among other senior officials were in attendance.

The details emerged after Fawad revealed on Twitter that he held a meeting with the US officials and discussed issues ranging from politics to human rights violations in Pakistan. In the tweet, Fawad stated that he had a “good meeting with the US ambassador and senior officials”.

The PTI leader added that the “worsening HR situation in Pak was a particular focus of discussion”, saying that he apprised the US officials on the PTI concerns on misuse of anti-terrorism and blasphemy laws by the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) government against the political opponents.

“The political situation and the PTI position on various issues came under discussion,” Fawad stated, adding that such meetings were part of a “mutual desire” for relationships based on equality and the well-being of people.

Apparently, the declaration that the meeting was a result of mutual desire came to counter the impression that the PTI was the only one interested in meeting the US officials after Imran’s repeated stance that he no longer saw a foreign power conspiring with his political opponents to oust him.

In the recent past, Imran not only showed departure from his usual stance against the US but repeatedly conveyed through his interviews that he desired to restore relations with Washington despite accusing it of treating Islamabad as a “slave”.

On the alleged conspiracy being backed by the US, Imran frequently maintained that he no longer blamed the US and wanted a “dignified” relationship if re-elected, saying: “As far as I’m concerned, it’s over, it’s behind me.”

In his recent interview with the Voice of America, Imran said that new information had surfaced and he was convinced that there was no foreign power which conspired to overthrow his government but his own army chief who urged Washington that Imran needed to go.

The accusation against former army chief General (retd) Qamar Javed Bajwa came after the ex-military czar was quoted as saying that Pakistan was headed for disaster if Imran continued to remain in power.

Gen Bajwa’s accusation was enough to enrage Imran as he not only lashed out at the ex-military chief but also wrote a letter to President Dr Arif Alvi to order an inquiry against Bajwa on charges of allegedly violating his oath by interfering in politics and controlling the anti-graft body, among other things.

After the US, Imran is now accusing Gen Bajwa of exercising sweeping powers in most matters of governance, saying the PTI was left to take all the blame. Surprising as it may seem, both the PTI and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) have accused Gen Bajwa and other retired generals of political interference but no action has so far been taken against anyone.

A US embassy in Islamabad spokesperson was approached for comments but could not be reached till the filing of this story.


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