Pakistan values, looks
forward to further
enhance military ties
with US: Gen Bajwa

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Gen Bajwa earlier appealed to Washington to use its leverage for release of $1.7 billion IMF tranche

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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa on Friday told United States Central Command (CENTCOM) Commander Gen. Michael Erik Kurilla that Islamabad valued its relations with Washington and looked forward to further enhancing them in all fields. 

The telephonic contact between two military commanders took place hours after media reported the army chief had appealed to Washington to use its leverage to secure the early release of International Monetary Fund (IMF) money. Pakistan’s foreign office confirmed a phone conversation between US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and General Bajwa, but did not provide details.

The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the Pakistani military’s media wing, said the two military commanders discussed matters of mutual interests, regional stability as well as defense and security cooperation during Friday’s call. 

Pakistan’s Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa

“Pakistan values its relations with US and we earnestly look forward to enhance mutually beneficial multi-domain relations based on common interests,” the ISPR quoted General Bajwa in a statement on Friday.

Both figures reiterated the desire to further enhance bilateral relations in all fields, according to the ISPR statement. 

The US CENTCOM commander appreciated Pakistan’s role in regional stability and pledged to “play his role for further improvement in cooperation with Pakistan at all levels,” it added. 

Pakistan and the IMF reached a staff-level agreement earlier this month to pave the way for the release of a tranche of $1.17 billion, but the lender is awaiting approval from its board that is not scheduled to meet until late August. 

The US is the largest shareholder in the IMF and has over the years worked closely with Pakistani army chiefs alongside civilian governments. 

However, the relations between the US and Pakistan have been at a lower ebb since former prime minister Imran Khan accused President Joe Biden’s administration of conspiring to oust him from power through a parliamentary vote of no-confidence vote in April. Washington has repeatedly denied the allegation.

In a dispatch from New York, Nikkei Asia reported that “dwindling foreign reserves” have sparked “a scramble in Islamabad to avoid a default.”

States Central Command (CENTCOM) Commander Gen. Michael Erik Kurilla

Gen Bajwa’s phone call to US Deputy Secretary of State was part of Pakistan’s efforts to avoid a default, the report added.

Foreign Office Spokesperson Asim Iftikhar, when asked about the conversation between Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa and Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, told journalists in Islamabad on Friday: “Well, I understand conversation has taken place, but at this stage, I am not in direct knowledge of the content of this discussion.”

When Dawn asked the US State Department for confirmation, one of their spokespersons said: “US officials talk to Pakistani officials regularly on a range of issues.

“As standard practice, we don’t comment on the specifics of private diplomatic conversations.”

Earlier this month, one of the prime minister’s advisers — Tariq Fatemi — also met the deputy secretary at her office and conveyed a similar message. Later, both sides issued separate statements, saying that economic matters were discussed in the meeting.

The Nikkei report said Gen. Bajwa had made an appeal for the White House and Treasury Department to push the IMF to immediately supply nearly $1.2 billion that Pakistan is due to receive under a resumed loan program.

The report noted that the present Pakistani government “does not have much credibility or political capital beyond Islamabad, and faces persistent pressure from ousted rival Imran Khan.”

That’s why observers say “power lies with Gen. Bajwa, 61, an infantry officer” although he is due to retire in November after a three-year extension.

According to the report, while Pakistan has already been granted “staff-level approval” for the loan, it will only be processed after the lender’s board grants final approval.

“The IMF is going into recess for the next three weeks and its board will not convene until late August. No firm date has been set for announcing the loan approval for Pakistan,” the report quoted an IMF official as saying.

‘Engaged but impartial’

On Thursday, the State Department had said it remains engaged with a range of stakeholders in Pakistan, but it does not support one political party over another.

Spokesperson Ned Price said this at a news briefing in Washington where he also emphasized the US policy of supporting democratic principles across the globe.

“We remain engaged with a range of stakeholders in Pakistan. With those currently in governments, in a broad array of others, but I’m just not in a position to speak to any such meeting,” said Mr. Price while responding to a question about a reported meeting between a PTI representative and senior State Department official, Donald Lu.

Mr. Lu, who heads the bureau for South and Central Asian Affairs at the State Department, is the official blamed by PTI in an alleged conspiracy to topple their government/

“If there was any such meeting, I just not in a position to speak to it,” said Mr. Price, when asked if a PTI representative had met Mr. Lu, asking him to “forget the past and move ahead.”

Mr. Price also refused to comment on PTI’s position on this issue, saying: “What we’ve said on this before remains true.”

“We support the peaceful upholding of constitutional and democratic principles, including respect for human rights. We don’t support one political party over another. We support those broader principles of the rule of law and equal justice under the law,” he added.

Gen Bajwa and General Michael Erik Kurilla, Commander United States (US) centcom had a telephonic conversation, ISPR stated. During the call, matters of mutual interests, regional stability as well as defence and security cooperation were discussed in detail.