October 7, 2017
Khawaja Asif’s Visit to Washington D.C, Looks Promising
By Saeed Qureshi
The Foreign Minister of Pakistan Khawaja Asif is concluding his three days’ official visit (Oct 4-6) to United States today. During his stay in the US capital Mr. Asif met with three most important members of the Trump Administration. One is the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the other is US National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. The third important person he met is the Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. These crucial meetings came after the newly elected president of United States, Donald Trump accused Pakistan for "being a safe haven for terrorist organizations".
It surmises from the statement of the Rex Tillerson given after the parleys that a lot of misunderstanding between Pakistan and USA has been cleared. Mr. Tillerson in his comments paid tributes to Pakistan for playing a historic role in curbing the militancy in Afghanistan as an ally of the United States.
After his meeting with Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif, Secretary Tillerson said, he believed the United States has a reliable partner in Pakistan. He said Pakistan’s role is critical for the long-term stability of South Asia. In his brief remarks to the media, Secretary Tillerson expressed concern about the future of Pakistan’s government, stressing that Washington wanted a stable government in Islamabad. He stated “Pakistan’s relations with the US are extraordinarily important”.
Khawaja Asif also met with the US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis who said that the United States would try "one more time" to work with Pakistan in Afghanistan. "We intend to work with Pakistan in order to take the terrorists down. I think that's what a responsible nation does," Mattis said at a media briefing. Khawaja Asif held another meeting with US National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster.
In his meetings with the US National Security Advisor McMaster and Tillerson, he emphasized that Pakistan has a "diminishing" influence on the Taliban, who were its one-time ally.
Refuting the allegations that Pakistan maintains close connections with Taliban he said that “You want us to sniff them out, we will do that. You want us to take action against them, whatever action you propose, we will do that (but) these hollow allegations are not acceptable," Khawaja Asif told the journalists.
It seems that after their meetings with Pakistan’s foreign Minister, the new American administration had revised its hasty opinion about Pakistan and branding Pakistan as a scapegoat for her failures in Afghanistan. It also surmises that the visit of Mr. Khawaja has been effective in reversing or tone-downing the adverse American opinion about Pakistan.
What was most admirable is his eloquence in English and courage that he displayed for strongly refuting president Trump’s misrepresentation of the historic role that Pakistan played as an ally of USA for ten years in Afghanistan. Khawaja exuded enormous confidence, knowledge and fluency in clearing the fog of mistrust that has been developing after the advent of a Republican president with a peculiar mindset in the White House.
Later in a session with the media, Mr. Khawaja answered a host of questions that encompassed US-Pakistan relations, the erroneous perception of America about the role of Pakistan in Afghanistan and in dealing with the Taliban and other militants, the Pak-American bilateral relations, the Afghan Refugees in Pakistan, the Religious educational institutions(Madrassas) and their role in Pakistan. In that press conference that continued for 20 minutes, Mr. Khawaja was not evasive but gave detailed answers to all questions that needed clarifications.
Answering a question about Afghan Refugees in Pakistan and the allegation of their being involved in terrorism, Mr. Khawaja said that they are not involved in terrorism and were our brothers and sisters. However, he called upon the United States to resettled these uprooted people because it was due to American war in Afghanistan that such a huge refugee influx in Pakistan took place.
About Taliban and their present role, Mr. Khawaja stated that now the leading factions of Taliban including the Haqqani faction were in Afghanistan and both Afghan government and Taliban are trying to hammer out a constitution which he indicated was a positive development.
He alluded to the visit of Pakistan COAS General Bajwa to Afghanistan and hoped that the process peace in that country would move forward. He said that a roadmap to restore peace in Afghanistan was underway as all the underwriters were aiming at that coveted goal.
Answering a question about the presence of religious Madrassas in Pakistan and their role in fomenting unrest and terrorism, Mr. Khawaja answered that their role was patently positive like NGOs. They were educating millions of students, providing them food and shelter and other amenities.
About peace in the region, he emphasized that it was not incumbent upon Pakistan alone to engender peace but for all the regional states to undertake that mission. He patently meant India, China Afghanistan and Russia and Iran as well.
He said that there have been low and high stages in bilateral relations between America and Pakistan. He emphasized that during the cold war periods of 50s,60s 70s, Pakistan and USA were close allies. There have been alliances and pacts between the two countries.
About the continuance of democratic order in Pakistan, the foreign minister opined that leaving the past behind we can now vouch that Pakistan is on the road to a stable democratic path. He cited the period of the past ten years and argued that there have been elected representatives and democratic governments in Pakistan.
He said that in Pakistan now we have independent judiciary, parliament and assertive media which were playing their roles strengthening a democratic culture. He pointed out that there have been four military interventions in Pakistan patently abetted by the United State. He maintained that now democracy was premised on firm footing and Pakistan actually entered into a civilian threshold in 2013.
To follow up the process of normalizing relations between America and Pakistan, the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson would be visiting Pakistan later this month.
The writer is a senior journalist, former editor of Diplomatic Times and a former diplomat. This and other articles by the writer can also be read at his blog www.uprightopinion.com