US Secretary of State John Kerry will be the first high-ranking American official to visit Pakistan since the May 11 general elections which saw Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz return to power.
Kerry’s trip was confirmed by the foreign office, which announced on Thursday that US Secretary of State will arrive in Islamabad later this month for crucial talks with the country’s new political leadership on future bilateral cooperation.
At his weekly briefing, foreign ministry spokesperson Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry confirmed to reporters that the top American diplomat will tour Pakistan in the fourth week of June.
“The final dates are being worked out,” the spokesperson added.
This follows Kerry himself recently stating that he was eager to meet the new leadership, which sees Nawaz Sharif becoming Prime Minister for a record third time.
The US secretary of state’s visit is seen to be important because it will set the tone for future cooperation between Islamabad and Washington.
Nawaz’s government has already indicated that it will review the foreign policy pursued by the previous administration of the Pakistan Peoples Party.
One of the main agendas during talks between Kerry and the new leadership will be resolving the issue of the controversial CIA-led drone campaign in the tribal areas of Pakistan.
Islamabad has repeatedly called the drone attacks “ counterproductive” and in “violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, entail loss of innocent civilian lives and have human rights and humanitarian implications”.
Although US President Barack Obama recently made it clear that his administration would not halt the drone strikes, the PML-N is confident it will be able to find a ‘mutually acceptable’ solution to the CIA-piloted campaign.
Chaudhry said there was an “across-the-board political consensus on Pakistan’s position on the issue of drone strikes”.
“There is also a growing international debate over the humanitarian and legal implications of drone strikes. This matter is receiving priority attention of the government,” he maintained.
In reply to a question, the spokesperson claimed Islamabad had raised the issue of the stealing of Pakistani intelligence reports by the US National Security Agency with Washington.
Western media reports revealed that NSA has stolen 13.5 billion intelligence reports from Pakistan, as part of the wider controversy surrounding NSA’s ‘PRISM’ programme that can secretly survey internet and telephone activity.
“We have seen these media reports, and have taken up the matter with the US to ascertain the veracity of the news and obtain facts of the matter. We are awaiting their response,” Chaudhry concluded.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 14th, 2013.
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