LAHORE: Foreign Minister Khwaja Asif met former prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Saturday for ‘directions’ ahead of his tour to three countries where he is expected to discuss America’s new policy regarding Afghanistan and South Asia.

According to a Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader, Mr Asif is likely to leave for China today (Sunday) and his next stop will be Russia and then Turkey.

During a one-on-one meeting with Mr Sharif at his Jati Umra residence, Mr Asif, who has less than a month’s experience of running the foreign ministry, briefed the former premier about his planned three-country visit.

“The foreign minister consulted Nawaz Sharif about his planned visit to China, Russia and Turkey and got certain directions in this regard,” the PML-N leader told Dawn.

He said Mr Asif and Mr Sharif had discussed US President Donald Trump’s allegations of insincerity and duplicity against Pakistan in the fight against terrorism, and set conditions for future counterterrorism cooperation with Washington and Kabul, specifically the removal of hideouts in eastern Afghanistan. “They discussed Pak-US relations and Mr Sharif may speak on the matter at an appropriate time,” he said.

Following the meeting, Mr Sharif did not issue a statement on the US president’s anti-Pakistan remarks.

Railways Minister Khwaja Saad Rafique said Mr Sharif had deep insight into Pak-US relations. “Khwaja Asif came to take directions [regarding this] from Mian sahib,” he said, adding that the US president’s statement (about Pakistan) could not be taken lightly.

Pakistan’s top civilian and military leadership has already strongly rejected the US allegations whereas Foreign Office spokesperson Nafees Zakaria had said that differences between Pakistan and the US over the new policy did not equate to a “rupture in ties”.

Sharif may leave for London

A federal minister’s suggestion that Mr Sharif should visit London to see his ailing wife is being construed as a confirmed decision taken by the ousted prime minister.

“Begum Kulsoom Nawaz is not well...Mian sahib should go to London to see her,” Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique told reporters here on Saturday, and this statement was taken to mean, by several PML-N workers who Dawn spoke to, that Mr Sharif had decided to leave the country.

“Nawaz Sharif is likely to leave for London next week,” a PML-N insider told Dawn. There are rumours that he may not return soon considering the current situation in which he and his children are facing NAB references in various cases.

Day of prayer

The PML-N’s minority wing has announced that it would observe Sunday (today) as a day of prayer for the health of Begum Kulsoom who is under treatment for throat cancer in London.

“Prayers will be held at all churches in the country for the early recovery of Begum Kulsoom Nawaz,” Federal Minorities Minister Senator Kamran Michael said, adding that she would return to Pakistan soon after getting well.

Published in Dawn, August 27th, 2017

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