Dr Muhammad Khan
With Prime Minister Imran Khan at Washington, Pakistan and United States are seen engaged in the process of revival of their bilateral relationship. Indeed, this visit provides an opportunity both to Islamabad and Washington to repair their ties, which went into deferral after Mr Trump, took over as the President of United States in January 2017. A senior official of the Trump Administration has hinted on July 20, 2019 that, US is considering some changes in its policies towards Pakistan with respects to suspensions, made earlier on account of security assistance. This means that, there is a change of heart at Washington towards Islamabad. But, as history indicates, there is hardly any US aid or assistance which is free of strings. The official clearly said that, invitation to Pakistani Premier was a massage that, “door is open to repairing relations” with a new beginning for the building of an enduring partnership. Let’s hope that US really means to rebuild the broken ties with Pakistan with sincerity, resolve and steadiness.
While analysing the likely agendas of the meeting between Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Trump, Afghanistan seems to be the dominating area where both sides would like to debate in length. On the request of President Trump, Pakistan has already extended its greatest possible assistance during the on-going negotiations between US team headed by Zalmay Khalilzadand the Afghan Taliban. The talks are continuing since last over a year, mostly at Doha, Qatar. Ambassador Khalilzad, announced a day prior to the visit of Prime Minister Khan that, “latest round of talks between the US and the Taliban as the ‘most productive’ so far.”
There have been “substantive” progress, made between the parties on four key issues; one a time line for intra-Afghan dialogue, two the ceasefire between Taliban and Afghan security forces, three, guarantees by Taliban not to harbour foreign militants and four, the timeline for the pull out of US troops from Afghan soil. As per Ambassador Khalilzad, first time there has been broad discussion, which is quite promising and encouraging. Except time line for pull out of US forces from Afghanistan, almost all other disputes seem settled. In the case of US troops withdrawal, Taliban insists on six-months whereas, U.S is asking for thirty-month’ time table. As far as the inter-Afghan talks are concerned, there have been two days talks where sixty-four people, representing various Afghan factions including Kabul Government had in-depth negotiations with Taliban authorities in Qatar. Though these delegates were in their personal capacities, yet it was beginning of formal intra-Afghan talks. This entire break-through could not have been possible without a; serious, sincere, continuous and a dedicated Pakistani effort, which US must value, as it could not achieve this in last two decades with a huge military presence in Afghanistan.
However, as per Ambassador MunirAkram, “Despite facilitating US-Taliban talks, Pakistan has not secured any tangible reciprocity from the US.” So, let’s see is there anything worth for Pakistan this time or still the super power will ask for to do more, a mantra it had since 2001. Pakistan had already asked US to do more, since it had done enough in the form of 80,000 human losses, economic losses of over $225 billion and the social disharmony, it suffered during last two decades. With regards to changes in its policies ‘towards militancy and regional peace’ Pakistan has contributed sufficiently towards regional peace selflessly and with meagre resources without any foreign assistance. Pakistan has helped regional countries and international community at large including US by whole heatedly combating the terrorism all along its borders and within. Prime Minister Imran Khan must emphasise Trump Administration to put pressure on those forces and states which are abetting, financing and harbouring terrorism inside Pakistan for stoppage of this global curse.
Indeed, US needs to re-assess its approach towards peace and stability in South Asia, clearly ordering Delhi and Kabul to stop undesired acts of supporting non-state actors in Pakistan which create law and order situation in Pakistan. On its part, US should also stop interfering in the affairs of Pakistani minorities and those people who have been charged as per the constitution of Pakistan and laws of land. Pakistan has an authentic judicial system where cases are decided on merit without religious prejudices. Therefore, rather asking Pakistan, U.S needs to change its policiestowards Pakistan. President Trump wrongly tweeted on arrest of Hafiz Saeed, since it was the decision of Government of Pakistan like the BLA was declared as terrorist organisation by US at its own.
Suspension of security assistance by US has pushed Pakistan towards self-sufficiency and indigenisation with multiple avenues, thus nothing to be accepted on that account by Premier and COAS, during this visit. To the surprise of US and its strategic partners, the armed forces of Pakistan have achieved in last two decades what rest of global armies failed to attain. It include combating globally funded network of terrorism all along its border, establishment of peace at home and above all defeating the military might of India, which it tried against Pakistan in the form of aerial aggression, by downing its two aircrafts on February 27, 2019. In order to move forward, let’s have a dignified state to state relationship between Pakistan and United States without any biases. Starting from cold war, Pakistan has done enough even to the extent of bringing US to its current status of sole super power. Is there anything else Pakistan needs do for US and international community. Have they done anything for Pakistan? United States must stop asking Pakistan to do more, rather fulfil what, it has been found wanting in last two decades to repair the ties between Washington and Islamabad.
— The writer is Professor of Politics and International Relations at International Islamic University, Islamabad.