ISLAMABAD    -   Much-talked about meeting between Prime Minister Imran Khan and US President Donald Trump will take place today at the White House amid Islamabad’s optimism for ‘good news’.

PM Khan is in Washington along with Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Faiz Hameed and others for talks with the Americans.

Nawaz Sharif was the last Pakistani Prime Minister to visit the US on an official trip in October 2015.

Ahead of the meeting, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said the talks were aimed to reset Pak-US ties with a focus on expanding bilateral cooperation in place of the Afghanistan-centred relations of the last several years.

He said the prime minister’s July 22 talks with President Trump would highlight the points of convergence where cooperation could be mutually beneficial.

Senior officials at the foreign ministry told The Nation that Pakistan was expecting a good news despite the uneasy nature of the Pak-US ties.

“We are going into the talks with an open mind and with expectations of good news,” said one official.

A close aide of PM Khan said Imran Khan was prepared to take steps forward but not at the cost of national interest. “We are aiming to safeguard our interests and also be helpful to the US. Let’s hope for the best. This is a mouth-watering meeting,” he added.

Prime Minister Khan arrived in the US with an aim to reboot bilateral ties that were hit after President Trump publicly criticised Islamabad, cancelled military aid and asked it to do more to fight terrorism.

The US leadership is likely to press him to take  “decisive and irreversible” actions against militant groups and facilitate peace talks with the Taliban.

Imran Khan is also scheduled to meet International Monetary Fund Acting Chief David Lipton and World Bank President David Malpass. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will call on him tomorrow (July 23).

Trump, in addition to a one-on-one meeting in the Oval Office, will host the visiting delegation over a working lunch at the White House. Imran Khan is also scheduled to meet lawmakers at the US Capitol Hill.

Imran Khan’s visit comes at a time when talks between the US and Afghan Taliban are thought to have entered a decisive phase.

Pakistan’s efforts have been appreciated for facilitating peace talks with the Taliban. Actions like launching of cases against Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, head of the Jamaat ud Dawa, are signals aimed at addressing concerns by India and the US.

Trump is eager to end the war in Afghanistan, and Washington has long seen Pakistan as key to that outcome.

Islamabad takes credit for facilitating an ongoing direct peace dialogue between Washington and the Taliban to promote a negotiated end to the Afghan war.

Before becoming the Prime Minister, Imran Khan used to visit the US regularly and has a sizeable support base among the Pakistani diaspora.

 US to press Pakistan on Afghan peace

 Agencies add: US President Donald Trump is likely to press Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan for help on ending the war in Afghanistan and fighting militants when the two leaders meet at the White House on Monday amid their countries’ strained relations.

Khan, who arrived in Washington on Saturday, is expected to try to mend fences and attract much-needed US investment, hoping the arrest last week of a militant leader with a $10 million US bounty on his head will lead to a warmer reception.

“The purpose of the visit is to press for concrete cooperation from Pakistan to advance the Afghanistan peace process and to encourage Pakistan to deepen and sustain its recent effort to crack down on militants and terrorists within its territory,” a senior US administration official said.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the United States wants to make clear to Pakistan that it is open to repairing relations if Pakistan changes how it handles “terrorists and militants.”

In Afghanistan, the official said, the peace process is at a critical point and Washington wants Pakistan “to pressure the Taliban into a permanent ceasefire and participation in inter-Afghan negotiations that would include the Afghan government.”

 PM meets business leaders

 Prime Minister Imran Khan has invited overseas businessmen and investors to benefit from the economic and business opportunities afforded by Pakistan’s strategic location and the connectivity to the broader region.

He was talking to a group of prospective investors that led by Javaid Anwar, a leading Pakistani-American businessman, called on the prime minister at the Embassy of Pakistan in Washington DC.

The investors appreciated improved security environment in Pakistan. They also identified areas of interest with regard to investment in key sectors including energy and tourism.

Earlier, Tahir Javed, a Texas-based top Pakistani businessman and high ranking influential member of the Democratic party called on Prime Minister Imran Khan at Embassy of Pakistan.

Tahir Javed has been instrumental in setting up a Pakistan Congress Foundation that has played a key role in revival and activation of Congressional Pakistan Caucus at the 116th Congress.

Ambassador Munir Akram accompanied by Shahal Khan, one of the leading American investors with Pakistani background, also called on Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Minister for Maritime Affairs Syed Ali Haider Zaidi, Adviser to PM on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood, Adviser to PM on Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, SAPM on Overseas Pakistanis and HRD Syed Zulfiqar Abbas Bukhari were present during the meeting.

Trade and investment avenues in Pakistan were discussed during the meeting.

Zia Chishti, CEO of Afiniti, Mohammed Khaishgi, Founding Partner of The Resource Group and Hasnain Aslam, Chief Investment Officer at The Resource Group, called on Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The investors expressed their desire to further enhance their investment in the IT and Technology sector of Pakistan.

Nasir Javed, Ashraf Kazi and Shaukat Dhanani also met Prime  Minister Imran Khan at the embassy. They briefed the Prime Minister about their interest for investment in the fields of academia, manufacturing and steel industry. They appreciated Prime Minister’s vision of socio-economic development of Pakistan.

Imran highlighted the policy framework and conducive environment for promotion of foreign investment, efforts being undertaken for improving ease of doing business, promotion of industrial sector and socio-economic development of the country.

 

David Lipton, Acting MD IMF, and President World Bank Mr. David Malpass separately called on Prime Minister Imran Khan at the Embassy of Pakistan.