Pakistan Delivered On 2018 Agreements But US Has Not Reciprocated: FM Qureshi

Pakistan has delivered on U.S. expectations for the Afghan peace process, but to date, the US has not delivered for Pakistan, according to Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi.

Speaking to reporters in Washington DC at the end of his to tri-state visit to de-escalate US-Iran tensions, Qureshi said, “Pakistan fulfilled their expectations. Now we, too, had some expectations. What have you done?” He was referring to earlier meetings with US officials about agreements made between the two countries during US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to Islamabad in summer 2018. He did not elaborate on the US deliverables expected by Pakistan.

Qureshi visited Iran and Saudi Arabia to help de-escalate U.S.-Iran tensions following the US killing of Iran’s top military leader Qasem Soleimani.

According to Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, when the US–Pakistan agreement was made in 2018, the two countries’ relations were fraught. Qureshi described how he clarified Pakistan’s intentions in “resetting our bilateral relationship”. Pompeo had responded that this could only be routed through Kabul.” The US Secretary of State had then stated his country’s demands for a reset in the US-Pakistan relationship, which included Pakistan using its influence on the Taliban for the Afghan peace talks.

This Friday’s meetings held between Qureshi and Pompeo included discussions about the Iran tensions and the continuing efforts for Afghan peace negotiations. Despite Pompeo’s praise for Pakistan’s efforts to aid peaceful Afghan negotiations, Qureshi said the U.S had not reciprocated the 2018 agreement.

Qureshi continued that the 2018 US demands included: an “authoritative and powerful Taliban delegation” as well as Pakistan’s help to release two US hostages.

“We were told [about] two hostages, if they are released, it will create a goodwill and break the stalemate. Our security establishment held 72 meetings and you saw two hostages reached home safely.” Qureshi said.

The final US demand from Pakistan was met yesterday with American media reporting that negotiators received a Taliban proposal to reduce violence in Afghanistan. This concession was seen as crucial to finalise a peace deal between the insurgents and the United States to end the 18-year war.

This final demand, Qureshi said, “was not an easy job.” The cessation of hostilities means the “Taliban are willing” to seek a peace agreement. The message is a “golden chance […] there is no military solution and all regional powers including Iran support this agreement that will lead to intra Afghan dialogue.”

Qureshi called on the US to remain engaged in Afghanistan’s reconstruction following the withdrawal of its troops. He told Pompeo that Pakistan would continue its efforts for a political solution to the Afghan conflict. “Pakistan is fulfilling this collective responsibility for the Afghan peace process with sincerity,” he said.

The State Department released a statement of the meeting: “Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo met with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi today in Washington, DC. Secretary Pompeo and Minister Qureshi discussed a range of issues, including Iran’s malign activities in the region, the importance of US-Pakistan cooperation on the Afghan peace process, and building bilateral economic ties.” State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said.

Pompeo also tweeted that he “Enjoyed meeting with Pakistani Foreign Minister @SMQureshiPTI today. We discussed countering Iranian aggression, the Afghan peace process, trade ties, and regional stability”

Speaking on his meeting in Iran, Qureshi said he met with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani five days earlier. “Iranians did not want to escalate things with the U.S.; they don’t want war,” Qureshi said. He expressed Iran’s willingness to ease tensions with its Arab neighbours, “Iran’s position is a clear position they want an improvement in relations with all countries including SA, UAE.” He conveyed the message to Saudi Arabia that Iran “is willing to talk with an open mind.” He said during his meetings Iranians also “highlighted the issues, the differences, they have had with other important countries in the region,” and said. “They are willing to engage at all levels.”

Historically Pakistan has maintained a strong relationship with Saudi Arabia and commentators believe their influence has recently prevailed. But now Qureshi said, if the US–Iran conflict intensified, Pakistan will not be pressed by Saudi Arabia to support the U.S. “We have learned from our lessons from the past,” he said, “Pakistan would not like to be part of any conflict but instead we would like to play the role of a peacemaker.” He said.

He added although Pakistan’s geopolitical significance has always been recognised in Washington’s regional security calculus, “given the current situation Pakistan’s significance has increased.”

His views were echoed by Richard Olson, former US ambassador to Pakistan, now a senior advisor to the United States Institute for Peace, a Washington DC-based think tank.

Olson highlighted that Pakistan has domestic concerns in this case relating to its Shiite population and it will most likely push back on any pressure to take a side in an escalated conflict from Saudi Arabia, a source of financial support and Pakistan’s ally.

“Iran and Afghanistan both have substantial Shiite minorities, 20-30% of the population,” Olson said, “in Pakistan, there has not been a great deal of sectarianism […] as we have seen sectarian conflicts in the Middle East,” he said. “The sectarian divisions extend towards the army, the most important institution in Pakistan […] so Pakistan would loathe to choose one side over the other and will continue to attempt to straddle this divide as it already has very successfully done over decades.”

In addition to the tensions in Iran and the Afghan peace process, Qureshi also highlighted the continuing Kashmir crisis with U.S. officials during his meetings. He urged U.S. officials “to take notice of the human rights abuses, and atrocities carried out by India.” He described how “Kashmiri political leaders and ordinary civilians remain in detention; internet and communications outages continue despite India’s international assertions to the contrary. “The U.S has a responsibility to help us resolve this crisis,” Qureshi said.