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.”


Pakistan cruises to 2nd Twenty20 win vs Bangladesh

Updated 25 January 2020

Pakistan cruises to 2nd Twenty20 win vs Bangladesh

  • Babar Azam, who was out for zero on Friday in Pakistan’s five-wicket win, remained not out on 66
  • Bangladesh’s top-order batsmen struggled for the second consecutive day as the side was restricted to 136-6

LAHORE: Captain Babar Azam and recalled Mohammad Hafeez struck unbeaten half centuries as Pakistan cruised to a nine-wicket victory over Bangladesh in the second Twenty20 on Saturday and kept alive its hopes of retaining the No. 1 ranking.
Pakistan could stay top if it completes a 3-0 clean sweep by winning the final Twenty20 of the three-match series on Monday.
Recalled 39-year-old Hafeez made an unbeaten 67 off 49 balls while No. 1-ranked Twenty20 batsman Babar remained not out on 66 as Pakistan eased to 137-1 with more than three overs to spare.
Both batsmen entertained a weekend crowd of around 20,000 at the Qaddafi Stadium with a splendid 131-run stand against a listless Bangladesh bowling attack.
Shafiul Islam was the lone successful bowler when he had Ahsan Ali caught at mid off for a duck in his first over before Babar and Hafeez took charge. Bangladesh’s disappointing performance was summed up when wicketkeeper Liton Das dropped Hafeez soon after he had reached his half century.
Hafeez, who completed his half century with two successive fours off Shafiul in the 13th over, struck nine fours and a six while Babar, who was out for zero on Friday in Pakistan’s five-wicket win, hit seven boundaries and a six.
In the absence of the banned Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim, who pulled out of the tour due to security concerns, Bangladesh’s top-order batsmen struggled for the second consecutive day as the side was restricted to 136-6.
Earlier, opening batsman Tamim Iqbal labored for 53 balls on his way to a top score of 65 before he was run out in the 18th over as the Bangladesh innings struggled to build any momentum against the Pakistan pace attack.
The inexperienced pace trio of Mohammad Hasnain (2-20), Shaheen Afridi (1-22) and Haris Rauf (1-27) combined to bowl 12 overs, conceding only 69 runs between them and sharing four wickets.
Captain Mahmudullah, who won his second successive toss, surprisingly didn’t put himself in the top order while another experienced batsman, Soumya Sarkar, came in after the fall of Tamim’s wicket with only 14 balls left in the innings.
Bangladesh will round out the first phase of the Pakistan tour on Monday. The team didn’t want to stay in Pakistan for more than a week due to security concerns.
The tour was only finalized last week when Bangladesh agreed to split the Twenty20 series and the two ICC World Test Championship matches into three phases after the countries’ national cricket boards reached consensus in Dubai during a meeting facilitated by International Cricket Council chairman Shashank Manohar.
Bangladesh will return for the first test in Rawalpindi from Feb. 7-11. After a break of almost two months, Bangladesh will play an ODI and the second test in Karachi on April 3-9.
Late last year, Sri Lanka also split its tour to Pakistan into two phases when it played a Twenty20 series in Lahore and then returned in December for two test matches in Rawalpindi and Karachi, staying in Pakistan for 16 days.