Top US offical on quiet Pakistan visit to improve ties

By Baqir Sajjad Syed

A senior United States National Security Council official has been quietly visiting the federal capital amid reports that both sides are giving ‘behind-the-scenes’ efforts aimed at fixing the strains in ties more chances to avoid a complete breakdown of the increasingly dysfunctional relationship.
“FS (Ms. Tehmina Janjua) meets Ms. Lisa Curtis, the Senior Director for South and Central Asia at the NSC of US, at Mofa (ministry of foreign affairs) this morning,” Foreign Office spokesman Dr. Mohammad Faisal tweeted on Monday. However, no further details of the meeting were provided in the tweet. According to APP, Ms. Curtis later called on Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal but what was conveyed by the US official during the meeting was not made public either.
The FO spokesman had previously said at the weekly briefing that “Pakistan and the US are trying to find common ground in their bilateral relations, which is happening outside public glare”. The secret dialogue between the two countries had commenced soon after the US suspended military assistance following President Donald Trump’s New Year tweet accusing Pakistan of lies and deceit.
The dialogue that began between Pentagon and GHQ is believed to be continuing at the same level and between the same principals Centcom Commander Gen Joseph Votel and Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa.
Lately, military’s top brass had at the corps commanders’ conference signalled its desire for cooperation with the US. The frosty Pak-US ties last week cooled further when the US, along with its allies, the UK, France and Germany, successfully sponsored a move to get Pakistan on international counter-illicit financing watchdog’s grey list.
Outspoken Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf legislator Shireen Mazari reacting to Ms. Curtis’s visit said: “Why is Pakistan hosting Trump’s South Asia point person Lisa Curtis on sudden notice? She should have been made to cool her heels for a while after the premature targeting of Pak in FATF! Lisa Curtis as an analyst also has been a severe critic of Pak on all fronts including nuclear!”
According to a statement issued after the meeting between Ms. Curtis and Mr. Iqbal, various matters of mutual relationships came under discussion. Ms Curtis during the meeting was accompanied by US Ambassador to Pakistan David Hale, adds APP. During the meeting, Mr Iqbal said that harmony in Pak-US relationship was vital for defeating terrorism in the region.
He said backbone of terrorism had been broken in Pakistan while the country wanted to help develop sustainable peace in Afghanistan. He said ‘Pak-US knowledge corridor’ would help increase educational capacity of students. The minister informed the US delegation about measures taken to stop human trafficking.
Ms. Curtis also visited Islamabad on Oct 12, 2017 and during her meetings with Pakistani interlocutors then, the two sides had agreed to continue bilateral engagement at all levels and reinvigorate relationship to achieve the common objective of defeating terrorism. Ms. Curtis had then held talks with Ms. Janjua and Gen Bajwa.

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