Written by Muhammad Abdul Qadeer
On December 22, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi welcomed US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw half the US’s troops from Afghanistan.
Foreign Minister Qureshi said that the decision is good for ongoing peace talks between the Afghan Taliban and the US. The US and the Taliban concluded Pakistan orchestrated peace talks in the United Arab Emirates. The talks involved officials from Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. The Foreign Minister said that Pakistan has released some members of the Taliban to help facilitate the talks. On December 19, 2018, US Special Envoy for Afghan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad visited Pakistan and met with Pakistan’s Army Chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa. According to the US Embassy in Pakistan, Khalilzad expressed “his appreciation for Pakistan’s efforts to encourage the Taliban to negotiate directly with the Afghan government to reach a political settlement that ends the war in Afghanistan.” Another rounds of peace talks are scheduled in Saudi Arabia in January 2019. However, the Taliban has refused to meet directly with the representatives of Afghan government.
On December 12, Pakistan’s Foreign Office rejected the US State Department’s “unilateral and politically motivated pronouncement” of designating Pakistan among “countries of particular concern” that violate religious freedom.
The Foreign Office said it has taken numerous measures to safeguard the rights of its citizens, including the use of legal and administrative mechanisms. Pakistan said it does not “need counsel by any individual country for protecting the rights of its minorities.” The reaction came a day after US Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo added Pakistan on a list of countries that “violates religious freedom”. The move could have led to potential US sanctions against Pakistan, however, Secretary Pompeo waived penalties, citing US national interests.
During an interview to The Washington Post on December 6, Prime Minister Imran Khan said that his government would “never want to have a relationship with the US where Pakistan is treated like a hired gun,” and “given money to fight someone else’s war.”
On December 4, US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad visited Islamabad and met with Prime Minister Imran Khan and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.
During his meeting with Foreign Minister Qureshi, Khalilzad was assured that Pakistan would back a negotiated settlement with the Afghan Taliban to end the Afghan crisis. Khalilzad’s visit to Pakistan came a day after US President Donald Trump wrote a letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan in which he sought Pakistan’s assistance in moving Afghan peace talks forward. Imran Khan said Pakistan would do whatever possible to help Washington negotiate with the Taliban. US President Donald Trump has also offered to renew Pak-US ties. Meanwhile, in a written response to the US Senate Armed Services Committee, Lt General Kenneth McKenzie, the next Chief of the US Central Command (CENTCOM) said that he “will make Pakistan a priority engagement” and added that the US shares “an important strategic relationship given that Pakistan is a nuclear power that sits at the nexus of Russian, Chinese, Indian and American geopolitical interests.” Amid hopes of a possible thaw in US-Pak relations, US Ambassador to UN, Nikki Haley in an interview to US media outlet said that US should not give Pakistan “even a dollar” unless it stops “harbouring terrorists”.
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On November 26, US Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo announced that the US would offer a new reward of up to $5 million for information leading to the arrest or conviction of any individual who was involved in planning or facilitating the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
Secretary Pompeo said “The United States is committed to seeing that those responsible for this attack face justice.” He urged Pakistan to uphold its UN Security Council obligations “to implement sanctions against the terrorists responsible for this atrocity, including Lashkar-eTaiba (LeT) and its affiliates.”
On November 19, Prime Minister Imran Khan asked the US to “make the serious assessment of why, despite 140000 NATO troops, 250,000 Afghan troops & reportedly $1 trillion spent on war in Afghanistan, the Taliban today are stronger than before.” The Prime Minister said that Pakistan would do what is best for its interests.
Imran Khan’s comments came a day after US President Donald Trump said that the US does not pay Pakistan billions of dollars anymore because they do not do a “damn thing for us”. He further said, “Pakistan never told us that Osama bin Laden was living” in Pakistan despite receiving billions of dollars from the US. He also criticised Pakistan for Afghanistan’s crisis. On November 20, 2018 Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary, Tehmina Janjua summoned the US Chargé d’Affaires, Ambassador Paul Jones to Foreign Office and registered a strong protest on “the unwarranted and unsubstantiated” allegations made against Pakistan by US President Donald Trump. The Foreign Secretary told the US CdA that baseless rhetoric about Pakistan by the US President was totally “unacceptable.” Rejecting the insinuations about Osama Bin Laden, the Foreign Secretary reminded the US CdA that it was Pakistan’s intelligence cooperation that provided the initial evidence to trace the whereabouts of Bin Laden.
On November 9, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson, Raveesh Kumar welcomed the US’ decision for granting a waiver to India to import Iranian crude oil despite imposition of US sanctions on Iran.
Kumar appreciated the US for “taking into account India’s need for energy security”. On November 5, 2018 the Trump Administration announced the imposition of sanctions against Iran’s banking and energy sectors with the aim of cutting off its oil sales and crucial exports.
On November 6, Alice Wells, the US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs, visited Islamabad and held delegation-level discussions with Pakistani officials at the Foreign Office.
Both sides reviewed progress in bilateral relations and discussed the evolving regional situation with a focus on Afghan reconciliation efforts. The two sides also agreed to continue efforts to promote the shared objectives of regional peace and stability. Alice Wells also met with Finance Minister, Asad Umar and discussed issues related to bilateral economic cooperation and international cooperation to curb terror financing. The Finance Minister told the US Envoy that Pakistan would continue to take all possible steps to counter terror financing and money laundering. Meanwhile, Alice Wells apprised the Finance Minister of the US’ efforts for regional security. In a related development on November 7, 2018, Pakistan’s Foreign Office said that Pakistani officials also raised the issue of “respecting the human and legal rights” of Dr Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist, with Alice Wells. Dr Aafia, who was convicted in 2010 on charges of attempted murder and assault of US personnel, is serving an 86-year sentence at the Federal Medical Centre, Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas.
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On October 23, US Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo said the US had “made clear that its policy with respect to South Asia has not changed” and that the US expects from Pakistan that it does not provide “safe harbour to terrorists on its western border.” Pompeo added that Pakistan would be held accountable if tit did not achieve this objective.
He emphasised that everyone wanted reconciliation in Afghanistan but “to achieve that goal, there can be no safe harbour for the Taliban or the Haqqani network”. Pakistan maintains it has eliminated all terrorist hideouts from its territory and has repeatedly asked the US not to discredit its sacrifices in the war on terror. Chances of peace in Afghanistan remain elusive as Afghan government and Security Forces face heavy losses against Taliban insurgents. In a major blow to the government, Kandahar’s Police Chief General Abdul Raziq, a powerful opponent of the Taliban, was shot dead by his own bodyguard on October 18, 2018. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. However, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani alleged that the attack had been planned in Pakistan. Pakistan termed the allegations “baseless” and “unfounded”.
On October 2, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi met his US counterpart, Michael Pompeo in Washington to discuss bilateral ties and the regional situation. During the talks, both countries agreed to stay engaged and rebuild ties. Pakistan maintains that it wants to work with the US to bring peace in Afghanistan.
The Foreign Minister also reiterated Pakistan’s position that there was no military solution to the Afghan conflict. Qureshi stated that Pakistan would continue to support efforts for an Afghan-owned and -led peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi also held a separate meeting with US National Security Adviser John Bolton on the same day. In his meeting 35 with Bolton, the Foreign Minister discussed the situation in Afghanistan and briefed him about India’s aggressive posturing in South Asia.
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On September 25, Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi held an informal meeting with US President, Donald Trump on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.
Both leaders discussed matters relating to bilateral relations. The Foreign Minister said that he apprised the US President about the need to “rephrase the historic relations between Pakistan and the US.” According to the Foreign Minister, President Trump agreed with the view and said that the US wants to “re-build its ties with Pakistan”.
According to Dawn on September 21, the US State Department country report on terrorism noted that Pakistan had criminalised terrorist financing through the AntiTerrorism Act (ATA), but its implementation remained uneven.
The report also highlighted the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) concerns about Pakistan. The report alleged that a number of terrorist attacks by Afghan Taliban were “planned and launched from safe havens in Pakistan”. Islamabad strongly rejects US allegations and insists that it has eliminated all terrorist safe havens from its territory and that it would not fight “anyone else’s war” on its soil.
According to Dawn on September 13, US National Security Adviser, John Bolton said that the US’ decision to suspend military aid to Pakistan was not taken lightly.
In his address at the Federalist Society, a Washington based think tank, Bolton said that the Trump Administration had taken the decision keeping in mind that Pakistan “is a nuclear weapons state, and there is a risk that the government could fall into the hands of terrorists that would get control of those nuclear weapons.” Pakistan had earlier termed such assertions 31 baseless. The country maintains that it has a “highly efficient, robust and centralised command and control mechanism to secure its nuclear weapons.”
Addressing the Defence Day Ceremony at the General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi on September 6, Prime Minister Imran Khan said, “Pakistan would not fight anyone else’s war on its soil, nor will become part of it.”
On September 5, US Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo visited Islamabad and held talks with Prime Minister, Imran Khan and Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, accompanied Secretary Pompeo.
The two sides discussed ways to “reset” bilateral ties. According to the US State Department, Secretary Pompeo highlighted the importance of the Pak-US relationship and underscored areas of shared interest, such as the expansion of two-way trade and commercial ties. Pompeo also emphasised “the important role Pakistan could play in bringing peace in Afghanistan, and conveyed the need for Pakistan to take sustained and decisive measures against terrorists and militants threatening regional peace and stability.” Prime Minister Khan expressed “optimism” about finding a way forward in bilateral relations. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told the media that the Pakistani perspective was “presented responsibly” to the US delegation. The two sides also discussed the Afghan peace process. This is the first highlevel dialogue between Pakistan and the US since the new government of Pakistan Tehreek-eInsaf (PTI) came to power in August 2018. Both sides have expressed hope that the renewed talks would help ease tensions between the two countries. Following his visit to Islamabad, Secretary Pompeo proceeded to India for the US-India Ministerial 2+2 Dialogue where Secretary of Defence, James Mattis, joined him. During the 2+2 Dialogue, India and the US repeated their anti-Pakistan rhetoric and called upon Islamabad to ensure that its territory is not being used for launching terrorist attacks on other countries.
On September 3, Pentagon spokesperson, Lt Col Koné Faulkner dismissed reports that the US had cut security assistance worth $300 million to Pakistan saying the decision to suspend the aid was announced in January 2018.
Lt Col Koné Faulkner explained that on September 1, 2018, the Pentagon had only asked Congress to “reprogramme” an already suspended amount of about $300 million that Pakistan was to receive from the Coalition Support Fund (CSF). He said that this is not a new decision or a new announcement. He said, “Due to a lack of Pakistani decisive actions in support of the South Asia Strategy… $300m was reprogrammed by the Defence Department in the June/July 2018 timeframe for other urgent priorities.” Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that the $300m was neither aid nor assistance. He noted that it was “a reimbursement for losses incurred by Pakistan in the war against terrorism.”
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On August 23, Pakistan’s Foreign Office called upon the US to “immediately correct” what it described as a “factually incorrect” account of a phone call between US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo and Prime Minister, Imran Khan.
The Pakistan Foreign Office’s demand came after the US State Department released a statement regarding Secretary Pompeo’s telephonic conversation with Prime Minister, Imran Khan. According to the US State Department readout of the call, Pompeo urged Pakistan to take “decisive action against all terrorists operating in Pakistan”. Pakistan’s Foreign Office said that there was no mention of “terrorists operating in Pakistan” during the conversation between two leaders. However, the US State Department said it stands by its account. The row comes ahead of planned visit by Mike Pompeo and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, General Joseph Dunford to Islamabad in September 2018.
On August 14, US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo said that the US hopes to further strengthen ties with Pakistan for advancing “shared goals of security, stability and prosperity in South Asia.”
Meanwhile, Alice Wells, US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs said that the US is eager to work with Pakistan for peace and stability in South Asia.
Citing US officials, Reuters reported on August 10 that the Trump Administration has refused to provide funds for the training of Pakistani military officers from the US government’s International Military Education and Training programme (IMET).
According to media reports, some US officials said they were worried the decision could undermine a key trust-building measure. Pakistani officials warned it could push their military to further look to China or Russia for leadership training and security experts have called the US move as a “short-sighted decision”. Earlier, on August 7, 2018, Pakistan and Russia signed an agreement whereby the two sides agreed that Pakistani troops would receive training at Russian military training institutes. The agreement was signed following the conclusion of the first meeting of Russia-Pakistan Joint Military Consultative Committee (JMCC)in Rawalpindi.
On August 8, John F. Hoover, acting US Ambassador to Pakistan, met with Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) Chairman and Prime Minister-designate Imran Khan in Islamabad.
During the meeting, Imran Khan told the US Ambassador that his government would build a more “balanced and trustworthy” relationship with the US, asserting that the trust deficit between the two countries has resulted in many ups and downs in bilateral ties.
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During an interview to CNBC on July 30, US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo said that any potential International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout for Pakistan should not provide funds to pay off Chinese lenders.
Pompeo’s statement follows media reports that Pakistan could seek an IMF bailout of up to $12 billion. However, IMF said it has not received an aid request from Pakistan. In June 2018, media reports claimed that Pakistan has sought $1 billion in loans from China to boost its foreign currency reserves. The country has already borrowed approximately $5 billion in loans from China and its banks to fund major infrastructure projects under China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
On July 30, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US, Ali Jahangir Siddiqui met US Secretary of Defence, James Mattis at the Pentagon. The two sides discussed bilateral relations and situation in Afghanistan.
Following the talks, Ambassador Siddiqui said the two countries were working towards the restoration of their bilateral relationship. The meeting was held on Pakistan’s request.
On July 27, Heather Nauert, US State Department spokesperson said, “The US looks for opportunities to work with Pakistan’s new government to advance its goals of security, stability, and prosperity in South Asia.”
The State Department, however, said that the US is concerned about “flaws in the pre-voting electoral process.” The statement came after general elections were held in Pakistan on July 25 2018, in which Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) emerged as the largest political party in the National Assembly. In a related development on July 30, 2018, Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi telephoned PTI Chief and Prime Minister-designate Imran Khan and congratulated him for his party’s victory in general elections. Modi also called for “peace and development in the South Asian region.”
On July 21, Heather Nauert, US State Department spokesperson said that the US has “repeatedly expressed concerns to the Pakistani government about the participation of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) affiliated individuals in the general elections 2018.”
The State Department said it had also amended the Foreign Terrorist Organisation designation of LeT in April, 2018 to add the Milli Muslim League (MML) as a “Lashkar alias”. The US State Department expressed satisfaction that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had rejected the registration of MML in June, 2018, citing its linkages to Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). However, after the ECP refused to register the MML as a political party, its candidates decided to contest the election from the platform of Allahu Akbar Tehreek (AAT).
On July 3, Alice Wells, Deputy Assistant Secretary, US Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs visited Pakistan and held talks with Pakistan’s Army Chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa.
During their meeting, both sides discussed issues of mutual interest and steps to maintain regional peace and stability. According to the US Embassy, Wells’ visit focused on the role that Pakistan can play in bringing the Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table. Before coming to Islamabad, Wells visited Kabul and told Afghan officials that the Taliban’s refusal to join the political process was “unacceptable”. She said, “Taliban who are not residing in Afghanistan” are a major obstacle to the peace talks. It was an apparent reference to Afghan Taliban against whom the US has maintained that they enjoy safe havens in Pakistan. In a related development on July 4, 2018, Pakistan’s Army Chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa met Afghan Ambassador, Dr Omar Zakhilwal. The two held a detailed discussion on key issues of bilateral importance including efforts for the reduction of violence in Afghanistan and implementation of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS).
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According to a report released by US State Department on June 30, Pakistan has demonstrated significant steps to curb human trafficking.
The report noted that Pakistan does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, however, it is making “significant efforts to do so.” The US also removed Pakistan’s name from the US State Department’s watch list for human trafficking.
On June 29, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) officially placed Pakistan on the “grey list” for failing to curb anti-terror financing. The decision came after a plenary meeting of the FATF in Paris.
Presenting Pakistan’s case, caretaker Finance Minister, Dr. Shamshad Akhtar apprised the FATF of steps that the country had taken to combat money laundering and terrorist financing from its soil. Pakistan also submitted a 26-point action plan to the FATF to choke the funding of militant groups. Under the action plan, Pakistan would take steps to block finances of Jamaat ud Dawa, Falah-i-Insaniat, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Muhammad, Haqqani network and Afghan Taliban. In February 2018, Pakistan’s Foreign Office said that the country would be assigned to the “grey list” of the FATF in June 2018. The announcement came after the US persuaded member states of the FATF to place Pakistan on the “grey list” of nations with inadequate terrorist financing or money laundering controls. In a related development on July 30, 2018, India welcomed the FATF decision to place Pakistan on its “grey list”.
On June 24, US Defence Secretary, James Mattis confirmed that the US forces in Afghanistan killed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan’s (TTP) leader, Mullah Fazlullah.
On June 15, 2018, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani called caretaker, Prime Minister Nasir ul Mulk and Pakistan’s Army Chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa to share the news of Mullah Fazlullah’s killing in a drone strike in Afghan province of Kunar. Fazlullah was responsible for numerous attacks in Pakistan including the December 2014 attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar.
On June 20, Alice Wells, US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs told the US Committee on Foreign Affairs that Pakistan is on notice to eliminate all terrorist sanctuaries from its territory.
Pakistan continues to reject US accusations claiming that it has eliminated sanctuaries of all terrorist groups including the Haqqani Network from its soil. This is not the first time that US officials have threatened Pakistan for being on notice. In December 2017, US Vice President, Mike Pence warned that the Trump Administration has “put Pakistan on notice” for allegedly providing safe havens to terrorists.
Citing a US Military official, Voice of America reported on June 14 that the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan’s (TTP) leader, Mullah Fazlullah was killed following a US drone strike in the Afghan province of Kunar.
Mullah Fazlullah was appointed as the group’s leader after the death of Hakimullah Mehsud in November 2013. Fazlullah is responsible for numerous attacks in Pakistan including the December 2014 attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar.
On June 7, Pakistan’s Army Chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa held a telephonic conversation with US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo and discussed multiple issues concerning South Asia.
According to the US State Department, Pompeo and General Bajwa discussed ways to advance Pak-US relations, the need for political reconciliation in Afghanistan and the importance of targeting all militant and terrorist groups in South Asia without distinction. Pakistani officials described General Bajwa’s conversation with Pompeo as “positive and productive.” The talks follow an Afghan government offer of a temporary ceasefire to the Taliban during the month of Ramazan. In a related development, US Vice President, Mike Pence called Pakistani caretaker Prime Minister Nasir ul-Mulk. Following the talks, both sides reiterated to “strengthen bilateral relations as well as pursuing the common objective of achieving peace and stability in Afghanistan.”
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On May 29, the US Department of State released a report by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom which noted that the government of Pakistan failed to protect religious minorities in the country from continued “attacks and discrimination” by “extremist groups and society at large”.
The Report called upon the government to implement the religious freedom recommendations it accepted from its 2017 Universal Periodic Review by the UN Human Rights Council. The Report also urged the government to repeal its blasphemy and anti-Ahmadi laws noting, “until repeal can be accomplished, enact reforms to make blasphemy a bailable offense, require evidence by accusers, and allow investigatory authorities to dismiss unfounded accusations.” Earlier, on January 4, 2018, the US State Department had placed Pakistan on a “Special Watch List” for “severe violations of religious freedom. Meanwhile, the Report also criticised abuses in India under the Modi government noting that India “often did not prosecute violence by vigilantes against persons, mostly Muslims”. It noted that under Modi’s government, “religious minorities felt increasingly vulnerable due to Hindu nationalist groups engaging in violence against nonHindu individuals and their places of worship.”
On May 28, Pakistan’s Army summoned the former head of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Lieutenant General (r) Asad Durrani to General Headquarters (GHQ) to “explain his position on views attributed to him” in the book which he co-authored with former Chief of Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), A.S. Dulat. Pakistan Army also ordered to set up a ‘court of inquiry’ to investigate the matter in detail.
The book titled “The Spy Chronicles: RAW, ISI and the Illusion of Peace” has stirred controversy on a range of issues. Durrani wrote, “it is quite possible that the ISI did not knew about the location of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, but it was more probable that they knew and he was handed over to the US according to a mutually agreed process.” This contradicts Pakistan’s official stance that it only knew of the US raid on May 2, 2011, after the US stealth helicopters left its territory after targeting the compound of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad. Durrani also noted in the book that “the denial of Pakistan’s role was because cooperating with the US to eliminate a person regarded by many in Pakistan as a “hero” could have embarrassed the government.”
On May 25, Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesman, Dr Mohammad Faisal rejected US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s allegations regarding US diplomats being “mistreated” in Pakistan and noted that the Foreign Office had not received any specific complaint about it.
During a briefing to US Congress on May 24, 2018, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had said that US officials were being treated badly in Pakistan. He also said that Washington had released “far fewer funds” to Pakistan in 2018 and might give even less in 2019.
On May 23, Pakistan’s Consul General in Houston, Aisha Farooqui rejected rumours about Pakistani neuroscientist, Dr Aafia Siddiqui’s death as being baseless and false, adding that she had met Siddiqui at a US federal facility in Texas.
The Consul General said that this was her fourth meeting with Dr Aafia in 14 months. Siddiqui was convicted by a US court in 2010 on charges of attempted murder and assault on US officials in Afghanistan and was sentenced to 86 years in prison. Siddiqui has denied the charges.
On May 14, Pakistani authorities allowed US Defence Attaché Colonel Joseph Emanuel Hall to leave the country after his name was removed from a “black list”. Colonel Hall was involved in a fatal car accident in Islamabad in April 2018, in which a motorcyclist was killed.
Hall was allegedly driving drunk and crossed a red light. On May 12, 2018, a US military aircraft flew in to Islamabad from Afghanistan to take back Hall, but he was refused clearance by the authorities to fly out of the country. Following the accident, the government of Pakistan had placed Colonel Hall’s name on the “black list”, barring him from leaving the country. However, the government said that Hall could be tried in the country only if his diplomatic immunity is withdrawn. The US refused to waive his diplomatic immunity. Meanwhile, on May 11, 2018, the Islamabad High Court ruled that Colonel Hall does not enjoy absolute immunity.
On May 11, Pakistan’s Foreign Office announced travel restrictions and withdrawal of “special facilities” to US diplomats in the country following Washington’s decision to restrict the movement of Pakistani diplomats in the US.
The facilities that were withdrawn from the US diplomats and Embassy staff include the use of tinted glass on their vehicles, use of non-diplomatic number plates on official vehicles and extending visa periods or the use of multiple passports. The US Embassy would also have to seek no objection certificates from Pakistani authorities to install radio communication at residences and safe houses. Meanwhile, the US authorities have restricted Pakistani diplomats from traveling more than 40 kilometres (25 miles) from the Embassy in Washington or consulates in other cities without permission. Previously, Pakistani diplomats were allowed to travel throughout the US. The latest developments in Pak-US relations would add further strain to the already deteriorating ties between the two countries.
On May 10, Foreign Office spokesman, Dr. Mohammed Faisal expressed “deep disappointment” at the 1267 UNSC Sanctions Committee for blocking Pakistan’s proposal for listing Jamaatul Ahrar (JuA) leader, Umar Khalid Khurasani alias Abdul Wali saying, “the committee could not reach consensus due to objection by a member.”
The Foreign Office spokesperson did not name the member who blocked Pakistan’s proposal, however, media reports quoting Pakistani officials claim that the US stopped the process on the grounds that the listing request identified Khurasani’s current location in Afghanistan. The spokesperson said the move displays, “the double standards prevailing in the international fight against terrorism.” In October, 2017, Pakistan asked the UNSC Sanctions Committee to list Khurasani who is responsible for masterminding most deadly attacks inside Pakistan, including the Army Public School (APS) attack in December 2014 and the March 2016 bombing in Lahore on Easter.
During her confirmation hearing on May 9, US President Donald Trump’s nominee for CIA Director, Gina Haspel told the members of the US Senate Select Intelligence Committee that the CIA continues to be very concerned about the potential contacts between extremist groups and Pakistani nuclear scientists and is very closely monitoring this.
She was responding to a question from Senator John Cornyn. Haspel also said, “CIA has a very important role in monitoring China’s rise as a global power.” Gina Haspel is currently the Acting Director of the CIA.
On May 3, Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesman, Dr Muhammad Faisal ruled out the possibility of a “prisoner swap” with the US for Shakil Afridi, a Pakistani doctor who is believed to help the CIA track down al-Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden to a compound in Abbottabad.
The denial came in response to media reports that the government was planning to swap Afridi for former Pakistani Ambassador to the US, Hussain Haqqani or Dr Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani scientist who is serving a jail term in the US for allegedly attempting to kill US military officials in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, a Russian media outlet, Sputnik claimed on April 30, 2018 that the CIA had planned to organise a jailbreak for Shakil Afridi from Peshawar prison, but the attempt was thwarted by Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Following speculations about the alleged jailbreak plan, the opposition staged a walkout in the Senate to protest against the government’s failure to brief the upper house. On April 27, 2018, Afridi was moved from a prison in Peshawar to Rawalpindi’s Adiala jail.
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Dawn reported on April 30 that the US had delayed its decision to restrict the movement of Pakistani diplomats in America. During an interview with the Voice of America’s Uzbek service on April 17, US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Thomas Shannon said that the US would impose “reciprocal restrictions” on Pakistani Diplomats from May 1, 2018, restricting their movement to only 40 km outside the embassy or consulate they were posted in.
Shannon said that such practices were “very common in diplomacy” and that Islamabad had also imposed similar restrictions on US Diplomats in Pakistan. The American Diplomats have to inform the Pakistani government in advance if they plan to travel to most areas outside of Islamabad. Pakistani government cites security concerns for placing the restrictions. Meanwhile, in a separate development on April 24 2018, the government of Pakistan informed the Islamabad High Court that the US Defence and Air Attaché at the US Embassy in Islamabad, Colonel Joseph Emanuel Hall has been put on the “black list” and therefore, cannot leave the country. Earlier on April 7, 2018, at least one person was killed after Colonel Hall, driving drunk, hit a motorcycle in Islamabad. The government informed the court that Hall could be tried in the country only if his diplomatic immunity is withdrawn.
On April 23, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, Alice Wells visited Islamabad and held talks with Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary, Tehmina Janjua.
According to the US Embassy in Islamabad, Wells discussed the US’ South Asia strategy and efforts to make progress on regional security and stability. However, neither side gave any further details of the meeting. Meanwhile the Pakistani media has claimed that both countries are struggling to find common ground on Afghanistan despite several rounds of talks between them. This is Alice Wells’ second visit to Pakistan in April 2018.
According to a report published by the Financial Times on April 17, Pakistan has been reducing its dependence on American military technology and is shifting to Chinese military supplies.
The report titled “Pakistan shuns US for Chinese high-tech weapons” noted that the shift started during the last few months of the Obama Administration, when the US Congress blocked the sale of eight F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan. The report added that this move was seen in Islamabad as a confirmation of Pakistan’s concerns that the US “could no longer be relied on as their armed forces’ primary source of advanced weapons”. The report also quotes data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), showing that since 2010, US weapons exports to Pakistan have dropped from $1 billion to just $21 million in 2017. During the same period, those from China have also decreased, but much more slowly, from $747m to $514m, making China the biggest weapons exporter to Pakistan. Relations between Pakistan and the US deteriorated rapidly after the Trump Administration decided to cut nearly all US security aid to Pakistan, accusing the country of harbouring terrorists despite taking billions of dollars in US aid. Following this move, Pakistan’s Defence Minister, Khurrum Dastgir announced that Islamabad would begin purchasing more weapons from China, Russia and other East European countries.
On April 8, the Foreign Office summoned David Hale, US Ambassador to Pakistan to register “a strong protest” against the killing of a Pakistani citizen by a US official in a road accident in Islamabad on April 7, 2018.
At least one person was killed after the Defence and Air Attaché at the US Embassy in Islamabad, Colonel Joseph Emanuel Hall, driving drunk, hit a motorcycle in Islamabad. Foreign Secretary, Tehmina Janjua told the US Ambassador, David Hale that “justice will take its course in accordance with the law of the land and the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961”. Meanwhile the US Ambassador assured the Foreign Secretary, Tehmina Janjua that the US Embassy would fully cooperate in the investigation. Pakistani authorities have also sent a letter to the Ministry of Interior, asking to include Hall’s name in the Exit Control List (ECL). Another letter was sent to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to place the US diplomat’s name on its watch list. Media reports citing the Pakistani authorities claimed that the US diplomat would have to face trial, either in Pakistan or his home country. Media reports also claimed that amid increased diplomatic tensions between Washington and Islamabad, the Trump Administration has decided to impose new restrictions on Pakistani diplomats in the US, according to which the movement of Pakistani diplomatic staff would be limited to a 25-mile radius.
On April 2, the US Department of State imposed sanctions on a Pakistani political party, the Milli Muslim League (MML), designating it and its leadership as “terrorists.”
The US added the Milli Muslim League and Tehreek-e-Azadi-e-Kashmir as aliases of Lashkar-eTaiba (LeT), and specifically named seven MML leaders as terrorists. Both the US and India accuse the LeT for planning and carrying out the 2008 Mumbai attacks. India also blame LeT for carrying out attacks targeting Indian Security Forces in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK). LeT denies any involvement in armed activity but says the group, now operating under the name of its charitable arm, Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), supports the Kashmiri freedom struggle.
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According to Foreign Policy, on March 26, the Trump Administration could revoke Pakistan’s status of a non-NATO ally and impose political penalties on Pakistan for its alleged support to the Afghan militants.
The report titled “Is Trump ready to dump Pakistan?” said that the Trump Administration is now deliberating on “possible punitive steps against Pakistan.” It further noted that few officials and military officers “favour a hard line with Pakistan, maintaining that years of aid and accommodation have produced little in return.” The report quoting a US official said that the US is, “prepared to do whatever is necessary to protect its personnel and interests in the region.” Washington and Islamabad are facing continued deterioration in their bilateral ties as the US continues to act against Pakistan on multiple fronts. Earlier on March 22, 2018, the US imposed sanctions on seven Pakistani companies over suspicion they have links to the nuclear trade. The move could undermine Pakistan’s ambitions to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). Meanwhile, experts in Pakistan are pressurising the government to re-evaluate its foreign policy vis-a-vis US insisting that both Washington and Islamabad have different regional goals.
On March 19, Pentagon spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel, Mike Andrews said that the US military would not conduct any military operation inside Pakistan.
Colonel Andrews said, “We have no authority to go into Pakistan and there is no change with regard to respecting the territorial sovereignty of Pakistan.” He, however, pointed out that there could be exceptions. Pakistan maintains it would not compromise its territorial integrity.
During his visit to Washington on March 16, Prime Minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi met with US Vice President, Mike Pence.
Following a brief meeting Vice President Pence told the Pakistani PM, “The Government of Pakistan must do more to address the continued presence of the Taliban, Haqqani Network, and other terrorist groups operating in their country.” The US Vice President stressed that Pakistan “could and should work closer with the United States.” On his part, PM Abbasi apprised the Vice President of Pakistan’s sacrifices and successes in the fight against terrorism. According to media reports, the Prime Minister also assured Mike Pence of Pakistan’s “sincere commitment” to efforts for peace in Afghanistan. No 35 official accompanied the Prime Minister during his meeting with Pence which was arranged at the request of the Pakistani PM. Earlier on March 8, 2018 Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary, Tehmina Janjua had also visited Washington and held meetings with US civil and military officials in which both sides stressed the need for restarting the reconciliation process in Afghanistan. Despite all these visits, so far both sides have failed to reduce the mistrust as Washington continues to accuse Pakistan of not doing enough to eliminate terrorist hideouts in the country. US officials often accuse Pakistan’s security establishment of supporting the Afghan Taliban. However, the Pakistan military says there are no organised terrorist sanctuaries inside Pakistan anymore. Owing to the complex security situation in Afghanistan, Pakistan is pushing to strengthen its border controls through fencing and other measures to stop terrorists’ infiltration from Afghanistan.
On March 8, Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary, Tehmina Janjua visited Washington and held talks with US civil and military officials. Following talks, both sides stressed the need for restarting the reconciliation process in Afghanistan.
Both sides also welcomed Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s peace offer to the Taliban. Alice Wells, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia assured Pakistan of continued US support against insurgency and underlined the need for similar actions from Islamabad. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary, Tehmina Janjua highlighted Pakistan’s concern over border management and the existence of safe havens in Afghanistan being used by terrorists against Pakistan. The US side was led by US Deputy National Security Adviser, Nadia Schadlow, and included General Joseph Votel, head of the US Central Command, and Lisa Curtis, Senior Director for South and Central Asia at the National Security Council. Meanwhile, the US Department of Justice announced head money of $5 million on the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leader, Mullah Fazlullah. The talks between the two sides came amid Trump Administration’s increasing pressure on Pakistan to do more. However, despite increased differences between Islamabad and Washington, both countries are trying not to let relations deteriorate to the point of no return. Earlier on March 2, 2018, Alice Wells said the US was not thinking of cutting ties with Pakistan. In a separate development on March 9, 2018, Alice Wells said that US firmly supports Pakistan’s territorial integrity and opposes Baloch insurgents and other groups that threatens the country. She was speaking at the US Institute of Peace in Washington.
On March 1, 2018, Pentagon Chief Spokesperson Dana W. White said Pakistan must make use of new opportunities to combat terrorists as the war against terrorism has reached an inflection point in South Asia.
She also noted that the US continues to consult New Delhi, not only about “India’s very important role” in Afghanistan but also on other issues that go beyond the South Asian region. Pakistan remains suspicious about India’s increasing involvement in Afghanistan. Pakistani officials accuse Delhi of supporting terrorist organisations in Afghanistan who attack Pakistan.
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On February 28, Foreign Office Spokesman, Dr Muhammad Faisal said that Pakistan would be assigned to the “grey list” of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), in June 2018. The decision was taken during a plenary of the FATF, held in Paris from February 18 to 23, 2018.
The move comes in the wake of US-led efforts to put Pakistan on a FATF watch list. The spokesman said that FATF highlighted certain deficiencies in the Anti Money Laundering and Countering of Terrorist Financing framework of Pakistan. He said that an action plan to eradicate terror financing was being prepared as the FATF has urged Pakistan to take additional steps to control money laundering and terror financing. The US persuaded member states of the FATF to place Pakistan on the “grey list” of nations with inadequate terrorist financing or money laundering controls. According to Pakistani media reports the FATF plenary held its first meeting on Pakistan on February 20, 2018, where China, Turkey and Saudi Arabia opposed the US-led move to place Pakistan on the watch list. According to FATF rules, at least support of three members was required to stall the resolution against Pakistan. However, during the second meeting on Pakistan on February 22, 2018, the US convinced Saudi Arabia to withdraw its support for Pakistan in return for a full FATF membership. After Saudi Arab backed off, China also opted out fearing it could face embarrassment by supporting a move that would fail. Turkey was the only country which supported Pakistan at the FATF meeting. Pakistan remained on the FATF watch list from 2012 to 2015. In February, 2015 the FATF removed Pakistan from its watch list and said that Pakistan would work with the Asia Pacific Group to address Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) issues identified in its Mutual Evaluation Report, in particular, fully implementing UNSC Resolution 1267. The steps identified in the 2015 Mutual Evaluation Report required inter alia, legislative measures enabling the competent authorities of the concerned countries to identify, trace and evaluate property that is subject to confiscation, carry out provisional measures, such as freezing or seizing, to prevent any dealing, transfer or disposal of property subject to confiscation and take steps that will prevent or void actions that prejudice the country’s ability to freeze or seize or recover property that is subject to confiscation. However, the Pakistani government amended its Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) 1997 in February 2018 and issued the amended Anti-Terrorism Ordinance 2018 which enabled authorities to freeze the assets of 27 banned outfits, including Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).
On February 26, Lisa Curtis, the Senior Director for South Asia and Central Asia at the National Security Council of the US visited Islamabad and met with Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary, Tehmina Janjua.
The two sides discussed bilateral relations. According to the US Embassy in Islamabad, Lisa Curtis urged Pakistan to, “address the continuing presence of the Haqqani network and other terrorist groups within its territory, and reiterated the international community’s long-standing concern about ongoing deficiencies in Pakistan’s implementation of its anti-money laundering/counterterrorism finance regime.” Ms Curtis’ visit comes amid deteriorating Pak-US ties and a US government move to put Pakistan on the grey list of the Financial Action Task Force. However, reports in the Pakistani media claimed that both sides are engaged in behind closed door efforts to discuss the challenges in their bilateral ties. Earlier on February 23, 2018, Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesman, Dr Muhammad Faisal said that Pakistan and the US are trying to “find common ground in their bilateral relations…which is happening outside public glare.”
Addressing the Munich Security Conference in Munich on February 17, Pakistan’s Army Chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa said that there are no terrorist safe havens in Pakistan and asked the US to stop blaming the country for its own failure in Afghanistan.
He said that the notion of a caliphate in Pakistan “has not found any traction” and added that jihad has been “used to radicalise fairly large tracts of population”. He recalled that the US had recruited Jihadis two decades ago in order to drive Russia out of Afghanistan. He further maintained that the territories of Pakistan and Afghanistan should not be used against the other. General Bajwa also stressed that Afghan refugees’ repatriation from Pakistan is the key to eradication of terrorism from the region.
Citing Miftah Ismail, Adviser to the Pakistani PM on Finance, Reuters reported on February 13, that the US has put forward a motion to place Pakistan on a global terroristfinancing watch list.
A meeting of Financial Action Task Force (FATF) member states is scheduled to take place on February 18-23, 2018, in Paris, where the organisation may adopt the motion against Pakistan. The reports said that the US and UK had put forward the motion and later convinced France and Germany to co-sponsor it. Ismail said, “We are now working with the US, UK, Germany and France for the nomination to be withdrawn.” He also claimed that the US had put forward the motion on India’s demand. The motion focuses on Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) Chief, Hafiz Saeed whom India accuses of the 2008 Mumbai attacks. However, the US Embassy in Islamabad denied that it is acting on India’s request. Earlier on February 12, 2018, the Pakistani government amended its Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) 1997 and issued the amended Anti-Terrorism Ordinance 2018. The amended anti-terrorism law would authorise the government to blacklist charities linked to (LeT), Chief, Hafiz Saeed. The UNSC has banned Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and the Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation (FIF), two charities being run by Saeed for being “terrorist fronts” for the LeT.
Addressing the Chiefs of Defence Conference in Kabul on February 13, Pakistan’s Army Chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa said that Pakistan has eliminated all militant sanctuaries from its territory.
He also said, “Residual signatures of terrorists are also being traced and targeted through ongoing operation Raddul Fasaad.” The top US Commander in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson and Commander US Central Command (CENTCOM), General Joseph Votel also attended the conference. General Bajwa’s remarks come at a time when the US is pressurising Pakistan to act against the Haqqani network.
On February 12, the Trump Administration asked Congress to approve $336 million in civil and military aid to Pakistan for the fiscal year 2019, beginning in October 2019.
The Trump Administration had proposed $256 million in civilian assistance and $80 million in military aid to Pakistan. However, it has linked the military assistance to Islamabad’s actions against alleged terror safe havens on its soil. The Trump Administration has argued that the proposed military assistance would help defeat Al Qaeda and Daesh. In January 2018, Washington suspended security assistance to Pakistan and accused the country of providing safe havens to Taliban and the Haqqani network. Earlier, on February 6, 2018, Deputy Secretary of State, John Sullivan told the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee that “there hasn’t been a sufficient amount of action” from Pakistan against terrorists for the US to consider lifting the suspension of security assistance. On the same day, Congressmen Mark Sanford from South Carolina and Thomas Massie from Kentucky introduced a bill in the US House of 37 Representatives seeking to end US economic aid to Pakistan alleging that Pakistan is “providing military aid and intelligence” to terrorists. They called for redirecting these funds for building US infrastructure. In a separate development on February 13, 2018, US Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats told a hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee that despite Washington’s requests, Pakistan is holding back on cooperation with the US, failing to take tougher action against militant groups. Instead, he said, it’s only trying to appear tougher. He also presented a report to the Senate Intelligence Committee which cited seventeen US intelligence agencies as claiming that US is losing influence over Pakistan. The report also said that Pakistan would become a threat to Washington’s interests in the South Asian region.
On February 8, a US drone strike targeted a compound in North Waziristan Agency killing three suspected militants.
The drone attacks in Pakistan continue despite the country’s repeated warnings to the US that unilateral actions could prove detrimental to “the cooperation between the two countries in the fight against terrorism.” Earlier in January 2018, Pakistan had conveyed its serious concerns to the US following a drone strike targeting an Afghan refugee camp in Kurram Agency.
On February 7, the US Department of Treasury designated three Pakistani nationals as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs) for providing operational and financial assistance to “terrorists or acts of terrorism.”
The list includes Rahman Zeb Faqir Muhammad, Hizb Ullah Astam Khan, and Dilawar Khan Nadir Khan. The accused individuals have alleged ties with Al Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the Taliban.
On February 8, Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi held a telephonic conversation with US President, Donald Trump and discussed the situation in South Asia.
Both leaders “expressed concern” over the political crisis in the Maldives which was triggered following the country’s Supreme Court order to release nine imprisoned opposition politicians, maintaining that their trials had been “politically motivated”. The two leaders also reiterated their commitment to supporting Afghanistan’s security and stability and enhancing security in the Indo-Pacific region. The US and India aim to deepen military and economic ties as both sides remain wary of China’s growing clout across Asia.
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Washington Post reported on January 25 that the Trump Administration designated as global terrorists, six individuals accused of supporting the Taliban and Haqqani network in Afghanistan, and also highlighted their links to Pakistan.
The individuals include senior members of the former Taliban government in Afghanistan, including former Central Bank Governor, Abdul Samad Sani, and others said to have been part of Taliban leadership councils in Pakistan who provided financing and weapons for militants involved in attacks on US-led coalition forces.
On January 25, the Monitoring Team of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) 1267 Sanctions Committee visited Pakistan to monitor measures taken by the government against organisations listed on the UN’s terror watch list.
The UN Sanctions Committee was briefed about steps being taken by Pakistan in compliance with the UN sanctions. According to Pakistan’s Foreign Office, the team’s visit was a routine matter. However, in recent months, the US has mounted pressure on Pakistan to prosecute Hafiz Saeed, the chief of Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD). Media reports claimed that the UN team most likely pressured Pakistan to act against Saeed. Earlier in January 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), “prohibited all companies from donating cash to the entities and individuals listed under the UNSC sanctions committee’s consolidated list.”
On January 24, Pakistan condemned a US drone strike targeting an Afghan refugee camp in Kurram Agency and warned that “such unilateral actions” could prove detrimental to “the cooperation between the two countries in the fight against terrorism.”
According to the Pakistani Military the drone strike was targeted at an individual who had “morphed into Afghan refugees”. The military said it was not an organised terrorist sanctuary. The US dismissed Pakistani claims that the drone strike had targeted an Afghan refugee camp. Furthermore, a media report citing Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry officials claimed that US had conveyed it to Pakistan that drone attacks inside Pakistani territory would continue until the US government is satisfied that Pakistan is taking indiscriminate action against all militant groups. US drone strikes in Pakistan have drawn strong criticism from both Pakistani officials and the public. Islamabad views the attack as a violation of its sovereignty. Human rights group say such strikes against terrorists have also killed many innocent people including women and kids.
During an interview to Reuters on January 22, Prime Minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi warned the US not to weaken Pakistan. He also said, “Any constraints put on Pakistan, actually only serve to degrade our capability to fight the war against terror.”
Referring to the suspension of aid by the US, the Premier said that much of the suspended aid was from the Coalition Support Fund (CSF). The US reimburses allies for supporting counter terrorist operations from the CSF. Whilst referring to the US President’s recent tweet about “foolishly” giving billions of dollars in aid to Pakistan, the Premier said, “If somebody wants to start quantifying expenses and aid,” then also “put on table” the discussion with regards to charging Washington for using Pakistani roads and air corridors to resupply its troops in Afghanistan. The Prime Minister also revealed his government’s plans to seize control of charities being run by Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) Chief, Hafiz Saeed. Earlier on January 18, 2018, the State Department reiterated the US demand for Pakistan to arrest and prosecute Hafiz Saeed to the “fullest extent of the law”. In a related development, during a January 26, 2018 interview to an American media outlet Prime Minister Abbasi said that Pakistan would continue to provide the US with air and ground logistics for Afghanistan without any contract or payment. However, the Premier warned that Afghanistan could become another Vietnam for the US if it opted to resolve the conflict through only military means.
On January 17, Nikki Haley, US Ambassador to the UN, stressed, “the Afghan government wants world powers to step up pressure on Pakistan to come to the table and change their behaviour.”
Haley’s remarks followed her visit to Afghanistan where she held discussions with Afghan officials. The US and Afghanistan have long accused Pakistan of supporting the Afghan Taliban. Pakistan does not accept the allegations. In a separate development on January 19, 2018, the US Deputy Secretary of State, John Sullivan said during a meeting of the UN Security Council that Washington could not work with Islamabad if it “continued to give sanctuary to terrorist organisations”. Maleeha Lodhi, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the UN, said the Taliban do not need any outside support to sustain themselves when their safe havens are inside Afghanistan. She reiterated that 40 % of Afghan territory was under Taliban control.
On January 17, Foreign Secretary, Tehmina Janjua informed the Senate’s Foreign Affairs Committee that the US would continue funding the aid components that support their national interest, including the International Military Education and Training (IMET) part.
Under the IMET programme, Pakistan Army officers have been trained in the US at a cost of $52 million over the past 15 years and an allocation of another $4 million has been made for 2018. In a separate development on January 18, 2018, Foreign Office spokesman, Dr Muhammad Faisal said that Pakistan and the United States remain engaged in negotiations, which are “ongoing and outside public domain” and that cooperation with the US remains unaffected despite recent differences in Pak-US relations.
During her visit to Islamabad on January 15, acting US Assistant Secretary of State, Alice Wells met Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary, Tehmina Janjua. Alice said that Pakistan’s support was critical to the success of the US strategy for Afghanistan and acknowledged Pakistan’s efforts in eradicating terrorism.
She also conveyed the US desire to work with Pakistan in furthering the shared objectives of stabilising Afghanistan. Foreign Secretary, Janjua said the two countries should move forward their relationship under an environment of mutual trust and respect. She also expressed concerns on the continued use of Afghan soil by elements hostile to Pakistan’s stability. Wells is the first mid-ranking US official to visit Pakistan after the US suspended security aid to the country.
According to Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) on January 12, Pakistan’s Army Chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa held a telephonic conversation with US Central Command (CENTCOM) Commander, General Joseph Votel and discussed Pak-US relations’ post-US President Donald Trump’s tweet regarding Pakistan on January 1 2018.
The CENTCOM Commander assured Pakistan that the US is not planning, “any unilateral action inside Pakistan” and is seeking “cooperation to tackle Afghan nationals who, in the US view, use Pakistan’s soil against Afghanistan.” General Bajwa told General Votel that the “entire Pakistani nation felt betrayed” after the latest statements from US officials. He, however, stressed that Pakistan, “would continue counter terrorism efforts even without US financial support in accordance with our national interest.” Earlier in December 2017, the Pentagon told Congress it would work to expand cooperation with Pakistan “in areas where our interests converge and to take unilateral steps in areas of divergence.” · On January 4, the US State Department placed Pakistan on a “Special Watch List” for “severe violations of religious freedom.” The development came at the same time the US announced cuts to security assistance to Pakistan. Pakistan rejected the US designation saying the placement reflects, “the double standards and political motives behind the listing and hence lacks credibility.”
On January 2, the National Security Committee (NSC), expressed “deep disappointment” over US President Donald Trump’s accusations against the country including “deception” and “harbouring of terrorists,” noting that it was “completely incomprehensible” and “contradicted the facts.”
In a related development on January 4, the US State Department’s spokeswoman, Heather Nauert said that the US was suspending security assistance to Pakistan for failing to take “decisive action” against the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network.
The measure includes the suspension of delivering military equipment and the transfer of security-related funds to Pakistan. However, the State Department did not mention how much aid would be suspended. Media reports citing the US officials said the suspended aid would amount to more than $255 million. Earlier in December 2017, the US withheld a separate $255 million. The new suspension follows President Trump’s tweet on January 1, 2018, in which he levelled accusation against Pakistan of providing safe havens to terrorists and that the US had given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars since 2002, “foolishly”. In response, Pakistan summoned David Hale, the US Ambassador to Pakistan, to protests against Trump’s comments. US-Pak relations are at rock bottom as the US continues its hostile rhetoric against Pakistan accusing the country of harbouring terrorist groups. Pakistan strongly disagrees with the US claims, stressing that tens of thousands of Pakistanis, including its security personnel have died fighting terrorism, and their sacrifices cannot be “trivialised.” Security analysts say President Trumps’s efforts of taking a tough approach towards Pakistan could prompt the country to suspend its Ground Lines of Communications (GLOC) and Air Lines of Communications (ALOC) for the coalition through which it transfers it supplies to land-locked Afghanistan. However, Pakistan’s Defence Minister, Khurram Dastgir said on January 9, 2017, that Pakistan would leverage its logistics support for coalition in Afghanistan at an appropriate time. The continued US allegations against Pakistan have also prompted responses from its allies China and Turkey. China has reiterated that that the international community should acknowledge Pakistan’s contributions to the global cause of counter terrorism. On January 3, 2018, Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan called his Pakistani counterpart, Mamnoon Hussain and assured Pakistan of his support.