High-level huddle: Troika finalises ‘heavy agenda’ for Kerry’s trip

Officials say the drone issue will be raised ‘forcefully’ with the US secretary of state.

Kamran Yousaf August 01, 2013
US Secretary of State John Kerry landed in Pakistan late on Wednesday on an unannounced visit for talks on eliminating militant safe-havens as US-led troops prepare to leave Afghanistan. PHOTO REUTERS


The government has finalised a ‘heavy agenda’ for talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry, who arrived in the federal capital on Wednesday to reset ties with Pakistan following the change of administration in the country.

Ahead of the ‘crucial’ talks scheduled for today (Thursday) between Secretary Kerry and Pakistani officials, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif chaired a high-powered meeting to evolve consensus among the stakeholders on issues to be taken up with the US foreign policy chief.

The meeting was attended by Adviser to Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Director General of Inter-Services Intelligence Lt Gen Zaheerul Islam and other senior officials.

Sources told The Express Tribune that the civil-military leadership agreed to forcefully raise the issue of drone strikes in the tribal areas. It was decided that Secretary Kerry would be conveyed in ‘unequivocal terms’ that Pakistan would no more accept such unilateral strikes, they added.

A government official confirmed that the government would also assure Kerry that “Pakistan is willing to address America’s concerns on ‘terrorist hideouts’ in the tribal areas if it agrees to halt drone strikes”.

Other issues that will figure during discussions from the Pakistani side include resumption of stalled ‘strategic dialogue’ and cooperation in the field of energy, trade and investment.

Diplomatic sources, meanwhile, said that Kerry came here with the hope that the new government would not only take concrete steps against the ‘terror infrastructure’ but also make renewed efforts to revive the Afghan peace process.

According to a statement issued following the huddle at the Prime Minister House, important regional developments, including various initiatives and measures to assist the reconciliation process in Afghanistan, came under discussion.

It quoted the prime minister as saying that peace and stability in Afghanistan were vital to peace and stability in Pakistan.

“Afghanistan also had the potential of becoming a substantial and viable economic partner and a conduit of important energy pathways from Central Asia to South Asia,” he stressed.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 1st, 2013.