–PM addresses Congress members at Capitol Hill, says it was not easy task to bring Taliban to talks table
–US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi underscores ‘critical relationship and partnership’ in meeting with Imran
WASHINGTON: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday met the members of the United States Congress at Capitol Hill as he wrapped up his three-day visit to Washington and left for Pakistan.
The PM was invited by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, the chairperson of the Congressional Pakistan Caucus, to a reception at the Capitol Hill, which was attended by a large number of senators and members of US House of Representatives.
Imran also met US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a meeting, attended by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and other officials, followed by a joint presser.
Addressing the press conference alongside Imran, Pelosi underscored ties with Pakistan, saying the US values the “critical relationship and partnership” with Islamabad.
She thanked the PM for his leadership with regards to reconciliation efforts between Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Taliban, and for advancing “enduring peace in the region”.
The prime minister thanked Pelosi for extending the invitation and for giving him a chance to share Pakistan’s point of view.
ADDRESS AT CAPITOL HILL:
Imran also addressed the gathering of the Congress members at the Capitol Hill. He said the “whole idea” of the visit was to create conditions where Americans could a better understanding of Pakistan.
The PM said Pakistan had always had “close ties” with the US and hoped for a relationship based on mutual respect.
He said: “Unfortunately Pakistan was not understood in the US, specifically over the past 15 years, when the war on terror was being fought in Afghanistan and tribal belt of Pakistan.”
“More than 70,000 Pakistani people died and our economy suffered a loss of billions of dollars in the war on terror,” said the prime minister, adding that Islamabad fought the US war even though it had nothing to do with 9/11.
“Al Qaida was in Afghanistan and there were no militant Taliban in Pakistan,” he added. “Where I blame my government [is] that we did not tell the US exactly the truths on the ground.”
He said that part of the reason for this was that 40 different militant groups were operating in Pakistan and the governments weren’t in control of them. “So while the US expected us to do more and help [the] US win the war, Pakistan was at that time fighting for its own existence.”
He said it was very important that he met President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to tell them that the only way forward for the two countries was a relationship that would be based on mutual trust.
“He said Pakistan was trying its level best to bring Taliban to the negotiating table and a significant achievement has been made in this regard,” he said, adding it was not an “easy task”.
He said the entire country, including army and security forces, were on the “same page” for a common objective of a peaceful solution to the Afghan conflict.
Earlier, US Congress Speaker Nancy Pelosi, other congressmen and Co-Chair of Pakistan-US Caucus welcomed and warmly received the prime minister at the Capitol Hill.
“I hope that we again get back to the relationship [we had] that was based on closeness, on trust, on mutual respect.”
Ahead of Prime Minister Imran’s address, Pelosi noted that the relationship between Pakistan and the United States was an “important one”.
She also thanked Pakistan for the “beautiful gift” of Pakistani Americans that she said the country had given to the US.