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July 21, 2019

What to expect

Editorial

 
July 21, 2019

There are many expectations attached to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s three-day visit to the US which begins today. This is Imran’s first trip to Washington as prime minister and his first summit meeting with President Donald Trump is scheduled for Monday. During the visit, with Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa accompanying the PM, the Pakistan delegation will be hoping to reestablish better relations with the US, establish itself as a geo-political ally and persuade the US to resume the assistance it suspended last year after President Trump accused Pakistan of “deceit and lies” and of “harbouring terrorists”.

The arrest of Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, chief of the Jamaatud Dawah on the eve of the visit is a move that Islamabad in all probability hopes will persuade the US it is indeed interested in clamping down against militants. Trump had welcomed the arrest, maintaining that it had come under US pressure after a 10-year search for Hafiz Saeed. This may not be strictly accurate, but perceptions are as important as reality in the meeting between two men who both gained fame in other walks of life before entering politics.

One of Pakistan’s chief priorities during the visit will be to gain US support in encouraging investment in Pakistan. The resource strapped country is badly in need of funds coming into its coffers and will be hoping the arrest of Saeed and Pakistan’s role in the Afghan peace process will bring it favour with Washington.

The visit is personally important for Imran Khan as his most important foreign trip so far. He has previously visited Turkey, China, the UAE and other countries – but a meeting with Trump is of course of great relevance at a time when Pakistan is attempting to avoid being placed on the FATF black list and to prove it is not a supportive of militancy. To do so if must also counter Indian efforts to expand or extend sanctions against it by the global body which monitors terror financing. Much will depend on the kind of impact the two leaders make on each other. Analysts suggest this has been true for President Trump since he began his term in office. It has also been suggested that Imran’s personal charisma and tough talking style may go down well with Trump. Any gains made will emerge however only after the summit is over with talks to be held on the sidelines likely to focus on issues such as security, which has indeed been identified as Washington’s key point of focus for the meeting. The meeting will of course be closely watched from around the world and especially from Pakistan. It is an opportunity for the prime minister to demonstrate to Washington that Pakistan still matters and is a country deserving of its support and help.

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