WASHINGTON: A top US official called on Friday for Pakistan to take action against all extremist groups ahead of a visit to Islamabad, which has sought reconciliation with militants both at home and in Afghanistan.
Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman will meet with Pakistani officials during her October 7-8 visit.
“We seek a strong partnership with Pakistan on counterterrorism and we expect sustained action against all militant and terrorist groups without distinction,” Sherman told reporters.
“Both of our countries have suffered terribly from the scourge of terrorism and we look forward to cooperative efforts to eliminate all regional and global terrorist threats,” she said from Switzerland, her first stop on a trip that will also take her to India and Uzbekistan.
Prime Minister Imran Khan, a longtime critic of US military campaigns, said in an interview aired on Friday that the government had opened talks with some groups of the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) about laying down their arms.
“Some of the Pakistani Taliban groups actually want to talk to our government for some peace, for some reconciliation,” he told Turkey’s TRT World television.
He said the discussions were taking place in Afghanistan with sections of the TTP, which has waged years of deadly attacks.
“I repeat, I do not believe in military solutions,” the premier said.
Prime Minister Imran has encouraged the world to engage Afghanistan’s Taliban and provide economic support, although he has stopped short of backing recognition — a step opposed by the United States.
Sherman praised Pakistan’s calls for an inclusive government in Afghanistan.
“We look to Pakistan to play a critical role in enabling that outcome,” she said.
Pakistan was one of only three nations to recognise the Taliban’s hardline 1996-2001 regime but quickly backed the US-led war to oust them after the September 11, 2001, attacks.
Secretary Sherman is the highest-ranking career diplomat in the State Department as the Secretary of State, who is equivalent to a foreign minister in other countries, is always a political appointee. She is the highest-ranking US visitor to Pakistan under President Joe Biden and since Taliban’s victory in Kabul.
Last week, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi met his US counterpart Antony Blinken in New York on the sidelines of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly. Their talks focused on the current situation in Afghanistan where the Taliban ousted the pro-US Ghani government in mid-August. The takeover followed the withdrawal of US troops from the war-torn country.
The US now wants Pakistan to persuade the Taliban to include other factions in government, respect human rights, allow women to work and girls to attend school.
Pakistan has assured the international community that it too wants an inclusive government in Kabul and will continue urging the Taliban to fulfil the promises they made to the international community. But Islamabad has also warned the international community that its influence over the Taliban is limited and it cannot force them to do anything.
US delegation exempt from Covid test in Islamabad
The government has granted exemption from Covid-19 rapid antigen test and body scanning to US Deputy Secretary Wendy Sherman and her seven-member team arriving on Thursday (today) on a two-day visit.
The delegation will arrive at Islamabad International Airport by a chartered flight and depart on Friday at 8pm. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has directed the aviation division, chief security officer of the Airports Security Force (ASF) and the airport manager to ensure arrangements for the arrival of the US delegation in Islamabad.
The airport authorities have been directed to ensure access of the delegation to the VIP state lounge, China Gate, at Islamabad airport both during its arrival and departure. In addition to access of vehicles to parking of the state lounge, directives were also issued to ensure provision of porters for handling of delegation’s luggage, availability of golf carts from landing gate to the state lounge, parking of special aircraft at a closer location and provision of Aircraft Bridge for ease of access.
The ASF authorities have been asked to issue five entry passes for the protocol officers of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and five for the officers from the US Embassy in Islamabad.
According to the foreign affairs ministry’s directive, the delegation would be exempted from Covid-19 (antigen rapid) test on arrival and departure. The visiting delegation will also be exempted from frisking and scanning.