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Pakistan PM's US visit begins on an embarrassing note

No state protocol was accorded to Imran Khan as he landed in the US for his maiden visit to the country.

, ET Bureau|
Last Updated: Jul 22, 2019, 10.26 AM IST
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The Pakistan Prime Minister, on a three-day visit to the US to discuss Afghan peace plan among other regional issues, received a cold welcome with no US officials receiving him at the Washington airport on Saturday.

No state protocol was accorded to Imran Khan as he landed in the US for his maiden visit to the country as the PM, and people closely following his trip to Washington saw it as a snub. Khan was received by his own foreign minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, and the Pak envoy to the US.

Interestingly posters of supporters of Khan have appeared in New Jersey offering free food (halwa and puri) to attract members of the Pak diaspora to an event to mark his visit.

In what would act as a dampener, Pakistan opposition parties including those from Sindh and Balochistan are staging protests across America during the visit with focus on human rights issues and what is alleged as enforced disappearances in those regions.

Khan is scheduled to meet President Donald Trump on Monday in what many feel could help improve US-Pak ties as Washington appears determined to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan and Islamabad emerging as a favoured partner as a neighbour of Kabul.

Chief of the army staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa, director-general of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Faiz Hameed and advisor to the Prime Minister for commerce Abdul Razzak Dawood are accompanying Khan to the US. This is the first time the two top generals are accompanying a Pak PM in the White House.

Bajwa will meet defence secretary Patrick M Shanahan, new chairman of joint chiefs of staff Gen Mark Milley and other senior officials during his visit to Pentagon.

Khan is expected to discuss Afghanistan and peace in the South Asian region during his meeting with Trump, Pakistan’s ruling Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party said on Friday.

In a series of tweets, the PTI on Friday outlined the Pakistani PM's schedule and its expectations from his meeting with Trump.

"Pak-US friendship has been a bumpy ride but a cordial friendship, nevertheless. PM Khan's visit to the US is rekindling that friendship again for mutual cooperation towards one goal: Peace & Stability in the region," PTI tweeted.

"PM Khan's visit will also highlight Pakistan's policy of "peaceful neighbourhood" aimed at resolving disputes through dialogue and promoting the vision of peace, progress and prosperity in South Asia and beyond," Khan's party said. Ahead of his trip, Islamabad softened its position on the Kartarpur corridor, opened up its airspace for Indian flights and its interlocutors engaged in several Track II dialogues with Indian officials to send message to Washington.

The US-Pakistan relationship has been strained in recent times, especially after the US President struck down aid amounting to $1.3 billion to Pakistan last year. Washington had said the aid would remain suspended until Islamabad took steps against harbouring terrorists on its soil.

Following the February 14 Pulwama terror attack — the responsibility of which was claimed by Pakistan-based terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed — Washington introduced a resolution with the UK and France to blacklist JeM chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist at the UN Security Council. Masood Azhar was blacklisted by the council on May 1.

In what is largely being seen as a move to appease Washington before the Khan-Trump meeting, Pakistan arrested LeT chief Hafiz Saeed, sending him to seven days in judicial custody. India has dismissed this move, labelling it as nothing more than "drama" as Hafiz Saeed has been arrested on multiple occasions previously as well.

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