ISLAMABAD  -  Pakistan is under the US pressure to itself find “common ground” to move forward, diplomatic sources said.

Senior officials at the foreign ministry told The Nation that Washington believed Pakistan was responsible for the declining trust level and Islamabad should try to find “common ground” for the future of the relationship.

Earlier, Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Mohammed Faisal said Pakistan and the US were yet to find “common ground” on a range of issues. His words came after Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Alice Wells landed in Pakistan for talks with the Pakistani civil and military leaders.

The State Department said Alice Wells would discuss Washington's strategy for the region and “Pakistan’s stated commitment to eliminate all terrorist groups present in its country”.

On Monday, Wells called on army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa. Regional security environment and matters of mutual interest were discussed, said a military statement.

Ambassador Wells said that the US was committed to lasting peace and supports all efforts towards that end. “Both agreed that bilateral convergences should be leveraged to gain positive momentum rather than remaining hostage to perceptions,” a statement issued after the meeting said.

One official at the foreign ministry said the US had made it clear to Pakistan that the “common ground” should be acceptance of all the demands made by Washington. “This way, the common ground is hard to find. They want Pakistan to accept the ‘common ground’ and start working on the demands immediately,” he added.

Another official said Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s upcoming visit to Afghanistan was also aimed at placating the US. “There is no doubt that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani invited PM Abbasi to Afghanistan under the US pressure. Washington wants both of us to find a way out and defuse the tension,” he said.

The official said the US also wanted Pakistan to hold dialogue with India to cool down the tension level.  “You can simply say that Pakistan has to work on the ‘common ground’. The US believes the common ground is already there to work on. Acting against the Haqqani network is also one of their [US] major demands,” he added.

Prime Minister Abbasi is expected to visit Afghanistan this week as “part of continuous engagement for peace in that country.”

Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Mohammed Faisal said Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had invited the prime minister during National Security Adviser Nasser Khan Janjua’s recent visit to Afghanistan. Dr Faisal said Pakistan had been consistently emphasising on an Afghan-led Afghan-owned dialogue process for peace in that country.

To a question, he said Pakistan had been expressing serious concerns over the presence of terrorist sanctuaries in Afghanistan along the Pakistani border. In January, the US State Department said it was suspending at least $900 million in security assistance to Pakistan, after President Donald Trump criticised Islamabad for not doing enough to combat terrorism.

Afghan officials, along with the Trump administration, have accused Pakistan of providing a safe haven for terrorists operating in Afghanistan, a charge Islamabad denies. Last month, the US Vice President Mike Pence told Prime Minister Abbasi that Islamabad “must do more to address the continued presence of the Taliban, Haqqani network, and other terrorist groups operating in their country.”

 

 

Shafqat Ali