Interior minister leaves on foreign visit

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—Ahsan Iqbal will visit US, Mexico, UK and Norway

ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal has left for a visit to the United States (US), Mexico, United Kingdom (UK) and Norway.

He will hold a meeting with the leadership of these countries on issues of mutual importance and will apprise them about Pakistan’s efforts and achievements in the war against terror.

The visit comes as Pakistan-US relations have been deteriorating rapidly over the last few years and received further dents last month when the Trump administration decided to cut all security aid to Islamabad until the country took strong steps to deal with terrorist networks allegedly operating from its territory.

The US had long accused Pakistan of providing safe havens to the leaders of Afghan Taliban and other militant organisations. But Pakistan had always denied the accusation on different forums.

US officials are also discussing the possibility of expanding the scope of drone strikes conducted inside Pakistan. Since 2004, the US had carried out hundreds of drone attacks, mostly along the Afghan border in northwest Pakistan. The intensity of the attacks had subsided in recent years.

In his State of the Union address, Trump did not mention Pakistan directly but he did say that he had asked the Congress to pass legislation to help ensure that US assistance in dollars “always serve American interests, and should only go to America’s friends.”