Pakistan urges its relations with US go beyond Afghan conflict

US President Donald Trump (R) shakes hands with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan (L) during a meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, September 23, 2019. (AFP)
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Updated 13 December 2019

Pakistan urges its relations with US go beyond Afghan conflict

  • US senator says Washington should change Pakistan’s behavior through a free trade agreement tied to security performances
  • US-Pakistan relations have limped on bilateral issues outside Washington’s key concern of Afghanistan

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Thursday urged the United States to move past the limited scope of their frayed bilateral relationship revolving around the Afghan conflict, following a US senator’s accusations that Islamabad provided “safe haven” to the Taliban, suggesting that “a free trade agreement” could change this.
Responding to US Senator Lindsey Graham’s interview with a US news network on Monday, in which he said that the US should start negotiating with Pakistan, because “if Pakistan denied the Taliban safe haven in Pakistan, the war in Afghanistan would end in a matter of weeks,” Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesman, Dr. Mohammed Faisal, said the senator “is talking about deepening and broadening of Pakistan-US relations.”
Graham also said in the interview that he wanted to “change” Pakistan’s behavior “through a free trade agreement tied to security performances, then talk to the Taliban.”
Avoiding a counter statement to Graham’s assertion that Pakistan provides a “safe haven” to the Taliban, Faisal said during a weekly press briefing on Thursday that the senator is Pakistan’s friend. “We enjoy cordial relations. Positive things are supposed to come out of whatever he has said.”
“It is the same thing that we have also been suggesting that we should overcome the obstacles and move beyond just the relationship based on Afghanistan,” Faisal said, adding “our policy is very clear and the prime minister has reiterated again and again that Pakistan has always stressed on a political solution in Afghanistan.”
“It is heartening to note that all the global powers are coming to this point that the only solution or way forward in Afghanistan is a political, not a military solution. Our argument has won the day,” he said.
While all stakeholders and facilitators have placed efforts on an intra-Afghan reconciliation, up until now, the Taliban have refused to hold direct talks with the Afghan government, which they reportedly consider a foreign-appointed puppet regime.
After a three-month suspension in peace talks, which was halted by Trump following a bomb attack in Kabul, which killed 12 people and an American soldier, the Taliban and the US resumed dialogue on Dec. 7. It is widely believed Pakistan played a pivotal role to bring both back to the negotiating table.
In October this year, Islamabad hosted a 12-member Afghan Taliban delegation to discuss the resumption of the Afghan peace process with the US. 
Pakistan has been playing the role of a facilitator since last year, but despite its efforts US-Pakistan relations have limped on bilateral issues outside Washington’s key concern of Afghanistan.
According to testimonies of US officials from two previous administrations, Pakistan played a “double game” as early as 2002 during the so-called US war-on-terror in Afghanistan, and “treating Pakistan as a friend” was a “critical error.”
“Americans have failed to understand that this is a political issue, do not resolve it with a military power, and they have used the maximum extent of that force, failing which they are now blaming Pakistan,” foreign affairs expert Qamar Cheema told Arab News.
He added that Graham was “speaking out of context” in his interview, and is ignorant of the fact the US has appreciated Islamabad’s facilitator role, which indicated gaps in information sharing between the US State Department and the US Congress.
Cheema said the US-Pakistan “relationship has always been hanging by a single thread which could be a free fall anytime, but Pakistan should not be viewed through a security and Afghanistan lens.”
“We have our own strategic importance in the region, which the defense establishment in the US understands, but the US Congress is sometimes misled.”


COVID-19: Pakistani celebrities who have lived to tell the tale

Updated 07 July 2020

COVID-19: Pakistani celebrities who have lived to tell the tale

  • Arab News speaks to notable Pakistanis about their experience testing positive for the coronavirus and the road to recovery 
  • Around 234,509 Pakistanis have so far tested positive, many of them politicians and celebrities from the entertainment and fashion industries 

KARACHI: As more and more notable Pakistanis test positive for COVID-19, Arab News spoke to some members of the entertainment and fashion industries about their experience with the coronavirus, the road to recovery and the lessons learnt along the way: 
Abrar ul Haq, famed singer, politician and philanthropist, told Arab News on Sunday that he suspected he had caught the virus while building a coronavirus hospital in Lahore, and soon learnt that his wife and son were also positive, though his one-and-a-half-year-old daughter was not. The family immediately quarantined in different rooms of the house for almost 20 days and received advice from doctors over the phone while the daughter was sent to live with her grandmother.
Haq said he had used his time in quarantine to produce a song, soon to be released on his YouTube channel, which paid tribute to the doctors and nurses fighting against the coronavirus outbreak.
Yasir Nawaz, a film and television actor and director, and his wife Nida Yasir, a famous morning show host, both tested positive for the coronavirus in May, and quarantined themselves in the upper portion of their house, isolating themselves from their children and household staff. The maids who brought them food were given PPE suits to wear, Yasir said. 
“We used disposable plates and cups and didn’t waste our trash outside but kept it in a separate place on the terrace,” Yasir added. 
An asymptomatic carrier, she tested negative for the virus in 14 days and believes a clean diet and strong immune system might have helped keep her safe from complications.
“I was already taking lots of fruits and vegetables,” she said. “Besides I was regular on Vitamin C, Zinc and Calcium for my general wellbeing, that also worked against COVID.” 
Yasir said she had wanted to donate her plasma but doctors advised that as an asymptomatic carrier, her plasma probably had not produced enough antibodies needed for the treatment, which involves the infusion of plasma from a recovered COVID-19 patient to a recovering one as a source of antibodies, a widely sought method in Pakistan despite limited information on its effectiveness.
Yasir’s husband Nawaz, however, said he had donated his plasma to Dow University Karachi and was informed by the hospital that his plasma had been infused in a number of patients, of which one woman who had been on a ventilator was now recovering. 
Maheen Khan, a 75-year-old top Pakistani fashion designer, said her symptoms included fever, body pains and headache and she also lost her sense of taste and smell.
“I had read a lot about the virus, so I immediately tested myself and after testing positive, just quarantined myself at home for the next 21 days,” she said, adding that she opted for a “holistic approach” to recovery, staying away from all medication except pain killers and eating raw food like mango with yogurt, milk and honey, and taking lots of Vitamin C. She also tried to rest a lot and do breathing exercises. 
“Calm yourself first if hit by the virus, try your best to be cured at your will but if the symptoms still get worse, see a doctor,” Khan said. “At 75, I put myself on strict care as I was the most vulnerable.”