Washington-Islamabad ties under torrid test

Blome backs democracy, reforms through IMF

Rizwan Shehzad March 15, 2024
Ambassador Donald Blome, Ambassador of the United States of America to Pakistan, calls on Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on March 15, 2024. PHOTO: PID


At a time when a member of the Biden administration is set to testify on Pakistan’s February 8 polls before its Congress, the US government on Friday conveyed to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif that it would continue to support the country’s continued economic reforms “with and through” the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The message came during the premier’s meeting with US Ambassador Donald Blome at the PM House.

Among other things, the premier “forcefully” raised the issue of Dr Aafia Siddiqui and the situation in Gaza as well as in the Red Sea.

The meeting has taken place at a time when the IMF mission is in Pakistan to discuss a $1.1 billion loan tranche and the assistant secretary of the US Department of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, Donald Lu, has been called to testify on the fairness of the country’s February 8 general elections before a Congress panel.

The Congress panel is conducting a hearing on the future of democracy in Pakistan -- scheduled for March 20 -- and will delve into the dynamics of the Washington-Islamabad ties following the general polls. Lu will be the sole witness for the hearing. Lu’s alleged involvement in the cipher controversy adds significance to his testimony.

PM Shehbaz and the US envoy discussed that the attacks on vessels by Yemen’s Houthi rebels in the Red Sea that had disrupted international trade on the shortest shipping route between Europe and Asia.

Al Jazeera reported that the strikes, which came in solidarity with the Palestinians facing Israeli bombardments in Gaza, were targeting a route that accounted for about 15% of the world’s shipping traffic, forcing several companies to reroute their vessels.

During the meeting, the premier expressed his satisfaction on the current state of bilateral relations between the two countries. Ambassador Blome, who paid a courtesy call on the premier, expressed the US’ support for Pakistan’s democracy.

“The prime minister expressed [his] satisfaction on the present state of bilateral relations [between Pakistan and the US,” read an official statement issued by the PM’s Office after the meeting.

The statement added that PM Shehbaz emphasised the need to maintain the positive momentum by regular convening of existing dialogue mechanisms focused on trade, investment, energy, health, defence, education, agriculture and climate change.

It stated that the premier said his government would focus on macro-economic reforms to stabilise the country’s economy and attract foreign investment. In this connection, it continued, PM Shehbaz also highlighted the role of the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC), which had been established to fast-track foreign investment in priority sectors in Pakistan.

Also read: Pakistan aims for large IMF loan

The PM’s Office said a number of issues of bilateral and regional significance were also discussed during the meeting, including the situation in Gaza as well as in the Red Sea and developments in Afghanistan. The statement read that the prime minister “forcefully” raised the case of Dr Aafia -- a Pakistani neuroscientist turned al Qaeda operative who is serving an 86-year sentence at a US prison for attempted murder and other felonies.

While congratulating the prime minister on his re-election, Ambassador Blome said the US considered Pakistan an important partner and hoped to work with its government to build stronger ties between the two countries.

In a statement issued by US embassy, it was stated that Ambassador Blome met with PM Shehbaz to discuss a broad range of bilateral issues, including partnering with the Pakistan government on regional security.

It added that the US would support Pakistan for continued economic reforms with and through the IMF.

The American embassy statement continued that US would also assist Pakistan in the areas of trade and investment; education; climate change; and private sector-led economic growth.

Ambassador Blome expressed the US’ support for Pakistan’s democracy and the key role of an independent press.

The US ambassador and PM Shehbaz also discussed how both countries could work together to accelerate projects addressing climate change under the US-Pakistan Green Alliance framework.


Replying to X

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.

For more information, please see our Comments FAQ