Imran Khan travels to US to ‘reset’ bilateral ties

Islamabad: Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday embarked on a three-day visit to the US where he is set to meet President Donald Trump on July 22 in a bid to “reset” tense bilateral relations.

Khan’s first visit to the US since taking office in 2018 comes at a time when Pakistan finds itself in a difficult economic situation due to a trade deficit, lack of foreign exchange and a need for foreign investment.

Khan departed for Washington on a commercial Qatar Airways flight in a bid to save taxpayers’ money.

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His visit comes as Pakistan has just received a $6 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund despite concerns expressed by the US.

According to the White House, Khan’s visit will focus on strengthening cooperation between Washington and Islamabad to bring peace, stability and economic prosperity to a region that has seen far too much conflict.

The two leaders will discuss several issues during their meeting, including “counterterrorism, defence, energy and trade, with the goal of creating the conditions for a peaceful South Asia and an enduring partnership between the two countries”, Geo News reported.

Chief of the Army Staff Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa and the Director General of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) are accompanying Khan to the US, Dawn newspaper reported.

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said there will be two separate meetings between Khan and Trump. The first one will be held in the Oval Office while the second one will take place in the Cabinet Room.

Last year, Trump accused Islamabad of helping to hide Osama bin Laden on its territory and said even though it received $1.3 billion a year from Washington it had failed to do anything in return for the US.

Khan at the time said the US was using his country as a “scapegoat” for its failures in Afghanistan.

In January 2018, Washington announced that it was suspending most of its security aid for Pakistan until Islamabad took decisive action against terror groups like the Taliban.

Khan arrives in Washington after the arrest of Mumbai terror attack mastermind and Jamat-ud-Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed on July 17. Trump applauded the arrest and said it was a result of the pressure imposed by his administration on Pakistan to harden its stance against radical Islamists.

Saeed has been in and out of prison several times and under house arrest in recent years.

During the visit, Khan is likely to defend the role his country is playing in negotiating the US-Taliban peace agreement in Afghanistan after 18 years of war, negotiations that are in their seventh round.

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief would hold discussions with a delegation of the World Bank in the US. He will also meet Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi before returning home on July 23.

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