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Pakistan, US making behind the scenes efforts to mend relations

File photo of Lisa Curtis, the senior director for South and Central Asia in the US National Security Council. (Twitter)
February 28, 2018

A senior aide to US President Donald Trump asked Pakistan to crack down on militant groups and address the world community’s concerns on terror financing even as she called for a “new relationship” between the two sides.

Lisa Curtis, the National Security Council’s senior director for South and Central Asia, made a low-key two-day visit to Islamabad after bilateral ties were hit again last week when the US persuaded members of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to put Pakistan on a watch list of nations with inadequate controls on terrorist financing.

The move was backed by Pakistan’s traditional allies Saudi Arabia and China, causing consternation in Islamabad as the de facto finance minister accused Washington of trying to “embarrass” his country.

Curtis, who met foreign secretary Tehmina Janjua, interior minister Ahsan Iqbal and the army’s chief of the general staff, Lt Gen Bilal Akbar, urged the Pakistan government to “address the continuing presence of the Haqqani Network and other terrorist groups within its territory”, according to a statement from the US embassy.

She also reiterated the world community’s “long-standing concern about ongoing deficiencies in Pakistan’s implementation of its anti-money laundering (and) counter-terrorism finance regime”.

Curtis, who is deputy assistant to the US president, told the Pakistani officials that the US “seeks to move toward a new relationship with Pakistan, based on a shared commitment to defeat all terrorist groups that threaten regional stability and security as well as on a shared vision of a peaceful future for Afghanistan”.

She acknowledged Pakistan’s sacrifices fighting terror and said the US South Asia strategy provides an opportunity to work together for a stable Afghanistan “which would enable the dignified return of Afghan refugees to their homeland, the defeat of ISIS in South Asia, and the elimination of terrorist groups that threaten” Pakistan and the US.

Curtis made the trip against the backdrop of reports that both sides are making behind-the-scenes efforts to address strains in bilateral ties and fears of a complete breakdown.

Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Faisal has said that Pakistan and the US are “trying to find common ground in their bilateral relations, which is happening outside the public glare”.

The low-key dialogue between the two sides commenced soon after the US suspended military assistance worth nearly $2 billion following Trump’s New Year tweet accusing Pakistan of deception. The dialogue between the Pentagon and the Pakistan Army is believed to be continuing between Centcom Commander Gen Joseph Votel and army chief Gen Qamar Bajwa.

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© 2018 the Hindustan Times (New Delhi)

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.