Top US State Dept official in Pakistan for crucial talks
Islamabad: A top US State Department official is in Pakistan for another round of talks with top officials about bilateral and regional issues, including the peace process in Afghanistan.
Foreign Office spokesman Dr Mohammad Faisal confirmed that Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Ambassador Alice Wells is visiting Islamabad on November 6.
“She will hold meeting with senior officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Ambassador Wells will also call on the Finance Minister,” he said.
Faisal also said that the aim of her visit was to follow up on discussions between Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Secretary of State Michael Pompeo in Washington with a view to further strengthen bilateral relations.
Qureshi and Pompeo had first met in Islamabad and the meeting was encouraging enough to be followed up in Washington when Pakistan’s foreign minister attended the UN General Assembly.
Diplomatic sources said that Ambassador Wells would focus on efforts to reset the relations between the two nations while remaining focus on kick-starting the Afghan peace talks.
Earlier, both countries had agreed that the Afghan Taliban should engage in dialogue to reach a political settlement, The News reported.
As part of this, Pakistan released a high-profile Afghan Taliban and former deputy chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar on Washington’s request, the report said.
Baradar was deputy to the late Taliban supreme leader Mullah Muhammad Omar. He was arrested from Karachi in a joint Pakistan-US operation after reports that he was independently trying to conclude a deal with Afghan government.
Relations between Pakistan and the US are under stress due to allegation that Islamabad was not doing enough to curb terrorism and to bring Taliban to the negotiating table.
But lately new efforts have been launched to improve the trust level after Pompeo visited Islamabad in September.
Last month, the US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad also visited Pakistan before flying to Doha, Qatar where he reportedly held talks with the Taliban representatives.
The visit by Ambassador Wells comes just a day before an International Monetary Fund (IMF) delegation is set to begin a two-week trip to Islamabad to discuss a possible bailout package to the cash-stripped economy of the country.
The US support is crucial in getting any bailout from the international lending body.
Previously, Pompeo cautioned the IMF against a possible fresh bailout for Pakistan’s new government to pay off Chinese lenders who have invested in the strategic China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
Pakistan’s economy is currently struggling due to falling exports whilst rising oil prices make imports more expensive.
The country has foreign reserves of USD 9 billion, not enough to pay for imports over the coming months.