High-level American team to visit this week

ISLAMABAD: The first high-level, face-to-face meetings between Pakistani and US officials since the Noshki drone strike that killed Mulla Mansour are set to take place this week amidst growing Pakistani concerns about the overall US policy in the region.

US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Olson and Senior Director for South Asian Affairs at the National Security Council Peter Lavoy will meet Pakistan’s political and military leaderships amidst growing calls among American policymakers and from Afghanistan for punitive action against Pakistan for its alleged support of the Afghan Taliban.

The US team will hold important meetings with officials including Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif and National Security Adviser (NSA) to the Prime Minister Lieutenant General (retd) Nasser Khan Janjua. The US delegation could also have meeting with Ms Maryam Nawaz Sharif as Peter Lavoy visited last year with an exclusive message of First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama for Ms Maryam, offering her to work on Ms Michelle’s worldwide endeavour of girls’ education. Highly-placed diplomatic sources told The News on Wednesday evening that the US delegation that would have an overnight stay in the capital and would focus on discussions about the developments with regard to Afghanistan.

Pakistani officials view such statements with a great deal of concern that the region may once again be lurching towards instability.

Also concerning Pakistani policymakers are the renewed attempts by the US to install India as a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group – the international governing body for civilian nuclear trade that Pakistan also desires to be a member of. Peter Lavoy, an intelligence veteran who now conducts the US dialogue with Pakistan on nuclear matters, will face tough questions from Pakistan about what officials here regard as an opportunistic and unprincipled stand by the US that could tilt the nuclear balance in South Asia with grave consequences for regional and global stability.

Ambassador Olson and Director Lavoy will likely to be informed about the increasing frustration among decision makers here that the outside world, led by the US, is quick to blame Pakistan for regional setbacks rather than working with Pakistan towards finding collaborative, peaceful solutions.

The withholding of funds for the purchase of F-16s and new proposed Congressional restrictions on US assistance to Pakistan also suggest a punitive mood against Pakistan just as internal stability is returning to the country at a great cost.

With senior foreign policy and military officials privately questioning if the US truly desires a stable Pakistan, the visiting delegation will have perhaps the toughest meetings between the two sides since 2011, when the Raymond Davis episode, Osama bin Laden raid and the Salala checkpost attack caused relations to plummet.


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