Pakistan committed to Afghan peace, Abbasi tells Pence

  • Abbasi tells American VP no other country wants peaceful Afghanistan more than Pakistan does

  • Congressmen convey US’s concern over registration of blasphemy cases against Pakistani Christians

WASHINGTON: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and US Vice President Michael Pence had an unscheduled meeting in Washington on Friday and both leaders talked about finding a negotiated settlement of the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan, a report in the local media said on Saturday.

The meeting was held on Pakistan’s request, the report in an English daily said.

According to the report, the one-on-one meeting held at the American vice president’s residence at the US Naval Observatory, close to the Pakistani Embassy in Washington, lasted for 30 minutes. No US-Pakistani official accompanied the two leaders at the meeting except Michael Cutrone, special adviser to Vice President Pence for South Asian Affairs, as a note-taker.

During the meeting, both sides expressed their point of view on Afghanistan. The report said that PM Abbasi assured Pence of Pakistan’s “sincere commitments” to efforts for Afghan peace and stability while mentioning “Pakistan’s success” in the war against terrorism.

“The premier assured Pence that no other country wants a peaceful Afghanistan more than Pakistan does, as it will be the direct beneficiary of this stability,” the report quoted its sources as having said.

As per the diplomatic observers, this meeting between the two leaders was the continuation of their talks held on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York in 2017.

In last year’s meeting, Abbasi and Pence agreed to remain engaged and carry forward the ties that had been on a downward trajectory since the announcement of the US policy for South Asia and Afghanistan in August 2017.

According to the report, the meeting with the US vice president was held after Pakistan felt that the last meeting made a positive impact on the bilateral relationship. Other sources noted that recent “positive remarks” by US military and civil officials also encouraged Pakistan to seek a meeting. The statements of US officials have started to change, acknowledging Pakistan’s “few positive steps” for peace in Afghanistan,” the report quoted a non-diplomatic source, adding that channels are more open now than before.

Prime Minister Abbasi also met US Congressman Ted Yoho, chairperson of the House Committee on Asia and Pacific, and its ranking Democrat Congressman Sherman.

Both lawmakers focused on the current situation in Afghanistan but they also expressed their concerns over increasing Chinese influence in Pakistan, the report said.

During the meeting, the two lawmakers also conveyed their concern regarding institution of blasphemy cases against Christians in Pakistan, the report concluded.