Prime Minister Imran Khan will meet Donald Trump for the first time on July 22 and their focus will be on “refreshing” bilateral relations, which was hit after the US President publicly criticised Pakistan, cancelled military aid and asked it to do more to fight terrorism.
Khan will make his maiden trip to the United States on the invitation of President Trump, Foreign Office Spokesperson Muhammad Faisal announced during his weekly press conference here on Thursday.
The relations between Pakistan and the US nose-dived after President Trump last year accused Islamabad of giving nothing to Washington but “lies and deceit” and providing “safe haven” to terrorists.
Khan had said in January 2018 that meeting Trump would be a “bitter pill” to swallow should he become Pakistan’s prime minister in elections later that year, but added “I would meet him.” He won the elections and was sworn in as Prime Minister in August last year.
Faisal said that the “agenda of the meeting is being developed through diplomatic channels” but the focus will be to “refreshing bilateral relations.” The announcement of the meeting between the two leaders comes a day after the US designated the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) as a global terrorist group and Pakistan booked 13 top leaders of the banned Jamaat-ud Dawah (JuD), including its chief and Mumbai attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed, in nearly two dozen cases for terror financing and money laundering under the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997.
When asked about the US move to designate the BLA as a terrorist outfit, Faisal said, “this is acknowledgement of Pakistan’s stance on the outfit.” The Department of the Treasury has designated Saeed as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, and the US, since 2012, has offered a USD 10 million reward for information that brings him to justice.
Saeed-led JuD is believed to be the front organisation for the Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is responsible for carrying out the Mumbai attacks that claimed lives of 166 people, including Americans. It had been declared as a foreign terrorist organisation by the US in June 2014.
Last month, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that President Trump had invited Prime Minister Khan in June but he could not undertake the visit because of the budget session.
He also said that talks between the two leaders would focus on “important regional matters”.
Trump was consistent in his criticism of Pakistan after launching his South Asia and Afghanistan strategy in 2017.
The US has repeatedly asked Pakistan to abide by its UN Security Council commitments to deny terrorists safe haven and block their access to funds.
In September, the Trump administration cancelled USD 300 million in military aid to Islamabad for not doing enough against terror groups like the Haqqani Network and Taliban active on its soil. Trump criticised Pakistan in a Twitter post back in November, saying Islamabad was not doing enough to stop terrorism.
In March, President Trump indicated his readiness to meet Pakistan’s new leadership, amidst the ongoing peace talks between the US and the Taliban facilitated by Islamabad to end the brutal war in Afghanistan.
“Pakistan – we’ll be meeting with Pakistan. I think our relationship right now is very good with Pakistan,” Trump said at the end of a White House media interaction when a journalist asked him to comment on the current situation between India and Pakistan.
US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad is spearheading efforts to strike a peace deal with the Taliban with the help of Pakistan.