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 'facilitated' Afghan peace deal, says army spokesman

Updated 27 February 2020

Pakistan 'facilitated' Afghan peace deal, says army spokesman

  • Babar Iftikhar rejects rumors that US-Taliban peace deal may be delayed
  • Underlines the army’s success in eliminating militancy

ISLAMABAD: Two days before the signing of a US-Taliban deal, Pakistan said on Thursday it had done its best to facilitate the Afghan peace process.
“There will be positive results from this deal. Nobody wants peace in Afghanistan more than Pakistan. We are hoping for the best,” military spokesman Maj. Gen. Babar Iftikhar told reporters at the Pakistan Army headquarters in Rawalpindi.
The US and Afghan Taliban are due to sign the peace agreement in Doha, Qatar, on Saturday. 
The army spokesman added that Pakistan’s relationship with Afghanistan is “cordial” as there are no reasons for it to turn sour.
As Thursday’s conference was Iftikhar’s first since he took office in January, he underlined the army’s success in eliminating militancy and restoring normality in Pakistan. As evidence of the success, he cited increasing tourism activity and the return of international cricket to the country. 
The ongoing Pakistan Super League is held on home soil for the first time, as security concerns had caused most games in previous years to be played abroad.
The army spokesman also said Pakistan does not seek open conflict with India, but is fully prepared to respond to any misadventure.
“There is no space for war between two nuclear powers, as this will have uncontrollable and unintended consequences. Things will spiral out of control,” he said, adding that the military is “prepared for all scenarios” and will “effectively respond” if there is any challenge to Pakistan’s security and integrity.
The statement comes exactly a year after two Indian fighter jets were downed for violating Pakistan’s airspace in an operation dubbed “Swift Retort” on Feb. 27, 2019.