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‘This Has Never Happened Before’: Imran Khan’s US Visit In The Spotlight

Prime Minister Imran Khan is on his first official visit to the United States where he is due to meet President Trump on Monday. Here is Muna Habib reporting on the visit from Washington DC.

WASHINGTON: Pakistan’s Army Chief Gen, Qamar Javed Bajwa will accompany Prime Minister Imran Khan on his first visit to the White House on July 22, to meet US President Donald Trump. This is the first time a top general will accompany a Pakistani PM on his meeting with a US President, said Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi at the Pakistan Embassy in Washington DC on Friday.

At a briefing ahead of Khan’s visit, Qureshi said, “This has never happened before”. He added that ‘it will demonstrate the continued civil-military connect’. Qureshi described how under previous administrations, there was a ‘disconnect’ between the civilian and military leaderships. “But now we no longer have a civil-military disconnect, we are now unified”.

He highlighted the ‘responsible approach and positive attitude’ the military had exhibited with the government’s decision to freeze the military budget. “There is a better understanding and no trust deficit, as there was in the past,” he said.

Qureshi defended the decision about the top military leadership accompanying Khan to the White House. “You know what people used to say in the past; that the political government wants a certain thing, the establishment does not… there’s disconnect between the civilian and the military establishments… they are not on the same page etc. Both civilian and military leaders are now focusing on the country’s interests, on the challenges before us”, he said.

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Qureshi added, the director general of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Lieutenant General Asim Munir, will also be part of PM Khan’s delegation. The two top generals ‘will hold separate meetings with their respective counterparts’.

Sen. Lindsey Graham played a key role in arranging and facilitating the White House meeting, Qureshi said. “He was blown away by the changes in Pakistan’s security policies”, Qureshi added.

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Pakistan-US relationship has moved from ‘caution’ to ‘cooperation’, Qureshi said. Pakistan wants to continue to foster “an environment of trust and cooperation that has developed between the two countries after a dip in the ties”.

Hafiz Saeed’s arrest on Wednesday too has helped lay the groundwork to improve the relationship ahead of Khan’s visit to Washington DC.

In the meeting on Monday, a US official said, Trump will push Khan to pressure the Taliban to sign a permanent ceasefire in Afghanistan and hold direct talks with the Afghan government.

Khan arrived in Washington on Saturday afternoon on a commercial flight. He will reside at the ambassador’s residence throughout his stay.

On Sunday, Khan and his delegation meet IMF head David Lipton and his team; then meet with the World Bank president, David Malpass.

In the late afternoon, he is scheduled to attend a Pakistani community event at Washington DC Capital One Arena. “Between 15,000 and 20,000 people,” are expected to attend the event.

In the evening he will meet with Pakistani-American investors, address the US-Pakistani Business Council and then attend a dinner with selected leaders in the US business sector.

On Monday, Khan is scheduled for a book signing ceremony at the White House, then attend a small group meeting in the Oval office, followed by an extended meeting in the cabinet room. Khan will also hold a one-on-one meeting with Trump. Trump will then give Khan a White House tour “to mingle and chat”, Qureshi said.

On Tuesday, July 23, US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, is scheduled to call on Khan.

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Khan will then address an event in Washington DC hosted by a think-tank, the United States Institute of Peace, followed by a lunch with leading US newspaper editors. Later in the day, he is scheduled to meet with the Foreign Relations Committee of Senate and address the bipartisan Pakistani-American Caucus. He will also meet with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

“This summit-level interaction is happening after a five-year gap. In these five years, bilateral relations went from bad to worse,” Qureshi said, while giving credit to PM Imran Khan for the ‘now upward trajectory’ of the US-Pakistan relationship.

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