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Critics ‘chuck rocks from both sides’ at May’s Brexit plans

Critics ‘chuck rocks from both sides’ at May’s Brexit plans

ISLAMABAD: As Islamabad prepares to receive US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and military chief General Joseph Dunford, defense and strategy experts on Monday urged Pakistan’s newly-elected government to find a middle ground on issues of regional peace and security.

The visit by the two top US officials is scheduled to begin on Wednesday.

Adding to the estranged bilateral ties, the Pentagon on Saturday said that it would scrap $300 million in aid "due to a lack of decisive actions” on Pakistan’s part to eliminate terrorists from the country.

The request, however, awaits congressional approval.

Pakistan claims the money -- around $900 million and part of the Coalition Support Fund – is a refund for expenses incurred during the war on terror and for its support of the US and Nato-led armed forces.  

“We want to improve our relationship with the US. Issues of bilateral interest [such as] regional peace, Afghanistan and the recent aid cut would be taken up for negotiations with Mr Pompeo,” Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said on Sunday night.

The US has consistently engaged with Pakistan’s military officials at the highest level, based on a shared commitment to defeat terrorist groups and as part of its vision to attain peace in Afghanistan, Pentagon spokesman Lt Col Kon Faulkner said on Sunday.

“We continue to press Pakistan to indiscriminately target all terrorist groups, including the Haqqani Network and LeT, and we continue to call on Pakistan to arrest, expel or bring the Taliban leadership to the negotiating table,” he added.

Pakistan, on the other hand, claims that it has eliminated the safe havens of all militant outfits from its soil, especially in North and South Waziristan -- the country’s tribal districts bordering Afghanistan.

Political and security analysts said that diplomatic relations between Pakistan and the US remain strained since January, following the announcement of a South Asia strategy by US President Donald Trump. Trump had accused Pakistan of sheltering terrorists – a charge which Pakistan denies.

“Pakistan is willing to cooperate with the US for peace in Afghanistan, but the role of India in Kabul’s affairs remains a major concern for Islamabad,” Zaigham Khan, a security analyst, told Arab News. 

Khan said that the US cannot win Pakistan’s trust until it agrees to limit India from interfering in the internal affairs of Afghanistan.

Tahir Malik, an academic and a political analyst, said that both the United States and Pakistan should find a middle ground to “bridge the mutual trust deficit and move ahead”.

“Peace in Afghanistan and the region will remain a dream until the US and Pakistan work jointly to eliminate terrorists of all hue and colour,” he told Arab News.

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