Trump has put a lie to all that has gone before his joint meeting with Imran Khan with the joint presser they did before their bilateral meeting on Monday. He came across as loving a fellow despost who hates independent media. When Khan said Pakistani media is the free-est ever, Trump chimed in with, “ You are treated worse than I.” When the reality in Pakistan is quite different. The media is in chains. Even on the day of this historic meeting, Pakistan’s largest news channel was off air and news of this censorship was earning censorship worldwide.
“Wouldn’t Pakistan like some of that,” repeated Trump twice dangling the carrot in front of Imran Khan whilst describing how many billions the US had wasted on other countries. He surely was deploying the carrot during this presser.
Give Us A Chance!
He’s new, I’m new and things will be fantastic, was Trump’s refrain. Pakistan didn’t respect the US or the US president in the past because parties in power in both countries previously were useless, he implied. But now things were going to be hunky dory, now that two messiahs ruled their respective countries. Trump even leveled a barely veiled threat to nuke Afghanistan by hinting at obliterating it within a short time. Pakistan would help him save millions of lives because he had the capability to end the nineteen year war in days with loss of millions of lives, Trump said.
In response, Imran Khan was seen as supplicating to the US to help bring India round to resolution of Kashmir. At which Trump jumped and preened and essentially said he was the man to do it, because of his excellent relations with both countries (don’t forget the doghouse he put Pakistan into starting January 2017).
Trump in his grandiose claims said Prime Minister Modi had requested him to find a path of peace between India and Pakistan. When facts tell us otherwise.
It was a surreal lovefest during which Trump said to Imran Khan, “I’m gonna campaign for you.. I see great trade with Pak we can go 10 to 20 times over now. They make incredible products.”
Pakistan’s Desperation to Convince US About Action Taken Against Terrorist Outfits
But just a day ahead of the much watched meeting between Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and US President Donald Trump on Monday, a senior US administration official pretty much divulged the agenda of the meeting in a call with reporters. Most unusually, Pakistan’s army and its top intelligence agency chiefs were to accompany the Prime Minister to the White House, which alone is quite telling.
This is being widely viewed as the Pakistani side wanting to convey to the US administration that the promises on militancy, Taliban, terror financing, and other thorny issues will be kept this time. After all, the military brass and the civil government are “on the same page”, as these two love to infinitely repeat to Pakistani audiences.
But the US ain’t buying any of this if the call is anything to go by.
Contrary to the expectations of Khan’s supporters back home, the purpose of the visit, as described in the US briefing, is to “press for concrete cooperation from Pakistan to advance the Afghanistan peace process and to encourage Pakistan to deepen and sustain its recent effort to crackdown on militants and terrorists within its territory.”
Getting US Dollars is Imran Khan’s Prime Motive
Pakistan has been seeking this meeting for a while to climb out of the President’s doghouse. Trump suspended aid to the Pakistani military in January 2018, which it used to receive in the form of Coalition Support Funds in the war on terror.
Since then, the Financial Action Task Force, the international body that monitors terror financing, has also been shining a spotlight on Pakistan’s failure to take adequate measures in this regard, as proscribed terrorists roamed free under the military’s watchful eye, raising funds, addressing public gatherings. The IMF bailout that has just been agreed, was also subject to FATF conditions being met.
However, it took someone to use his good offices to request Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman to weigh on Jared Kushner to lean on Trump to grant this visit. And this was aptly captured in a cartoon gone viral.
The tough US line (not withstanding the optical lovefest) comes in the backdrop of the recent arrest of LeT leader Hafiz Saeed, and the faltering ‘peace negotiations’ between the Zalmay Khalilzad led US team and the Afghan Taliban. Indiscriminate bombings of civilians claimed by the Taliban continue in Afghanistan, right through the peace negotiations and the US wants Pakistan to use its “influence with the Taliban to advance the peace process”.
The official expressed concern about links between terror groups like “the Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Haqqani Network and Jaish-e-Mohammed and Pakistan’s intelligence services and military.” And the administration appears in no mood to fall for verbal commitments this time Reporters were told that “We are clear eyed about the history here. We’re under no illusions about the support that we have seen from Pakistan’s military and intelligence services to these groups. And so we will look for concrete action.”
The US Is Fed Up Of Pakistan’s Empty Words & Inadequate Action
Earlier, on Hafiz Saeed’s most recent arrest, the House Foreign Affairs Committee also indicated eye washes weren’t going to be enough. HFAC tweeted at Trump, “FYI Pakistan wasn’t searching for him for 10 years. He’s been living freely, and was arrested and released in: December 2001, May 2002, October 2002, August 2006 (twice), December 2008, September 2009, January 2017. Let’s hold the clapping until he’s convicted.”
The administration official too referred on Sunday to the rinse repeat arrests of Saeed saying the US had seen the movie before.
Trade and energy projects were dangled as carrots for Pakistan, but are likely to come through only after its core demands are seen to be met. Other negotiating chips are Dr Shakil Afridi’s acquittal, women’s issues, opening of regional trade and transit (between Afghanistan and India). But clearly, peace in Afghanistan and a change in the policy of nurturing terror groups will remain the fundamental demands.
But it is quite clear the dollar pipeline to the Pakistani military is not about to start flowing as a result of this visit. Pakistan is grappling with a new world where it is not needed a mercenary country/ army in regional wars. There’s a war on in Afghanistan, but the US wants out of it desperately. Therefore the US is now unwilling to look away from its transgressions and provide less than truthful certifications to the Congress to continue funding Pakistan’s army. The US at least appears to be quite serious to tackle Pakistan’s terror backing problem this time around.
Love fest aside, reality checks in.
(Gul Bukhari is a Pakistani journalist and rights activist. She tweets@GulBukhari. This is an opinion piece, and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)