WASHINGTON, April 16 : Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States Sherry Rehman has arrived in Washington, after consultations with the country’s leadership in the light of parliamentary recommendations on way forward in Pakistan-U.S. relations.
Ambassador Rehman has been accorded the status of a federal minister by the government of Pakistan.
She is expected to hold meetings with U.S. officials at the State Department in the days ahead as Islamabad and Washington look to put their ties back on track, about four months after the Nov 26, 2011 NATO cross-border strikes on Salalah checkposts, which killed at least 24 Pakistani soldiers and plunged the relations to their lowest in more than a decade.
The incident prompted Islamabad to close two key supply routes for NATO supplies into landlocked Afghanistan and set in motion an unprecedented parliamentary review of Pakistan-U.S. relationship, which had already been tested by a string of incidents last year including a raid on al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden’s hideout in Abbotabad.
Washington considers the relationship critical to a successful outcome of the decade-old Afghan war as well as for peace and security in Afghanistan and the region beyond 2014, the NATO-set deadline for end to its combat mission and complete handover of security responsibility to Afghan forces.
The long-awaited parliamentary review has reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to fight terrorism and allows the use of Pakistani soil for transportation of non-lethal NATO supplies to Afghanistan. It also explicitly demands an immediate end to U.S. drone strikes against militant targets in Pakistani tribal areas.
U.S. counterterrorism officials see drones as an effective weapon against militants while in Pakistan repeated attacks are a very sensitive public issue, seen as violative of Pakistani sovereignty by political parties.
Last week, the State Department indidcated that the U.S. would try to find a middle ground on recommendations to serve interests of both countries
In the coming days and weeks, discussions between Pakistani and American officials are expected to focus on security issues, the situation in Afghanistan in view of recent Taliban spring attacks in Kabul and economic and trade ties
Meanwhile, Islamabad’s Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh has also arrived in Washington to lead the Pakistani delegation at IMF-World Bank annual spring meetings.
He is expected to meet with senior leaders of international financial institutions and his counterparts from other countries attending the meetings.
Source : MGCT, State Department, Pakistan embassy. By Ali Imran
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