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ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office on Thursday formally confirmed that Prime Minister Imran Khan would visit the United States for a meeting with President Donald Trump.

“At the invitation of US President Donald Trump, Prime Minister Imran Khan will visit Washington and hold a meeting with him on July 22,” FO spokesman Dr Mohammad Faisal said at the weekly media briefing.

This was the first official confirmation of the prime minister’s upcoming visit to the US after the reports that Mr Khan’s meeting with Mr Trump has been scheduled made the rounds in media for days.

It is speculated that Mr Khan has been invited to the White House to encourage his government to help more for a political settlement of the Afghan dispute.

The spokesman, however, said the “agenda of the meeting is being developed through diplomatic channels”.

Pakistan’s help for a political settlement of Afghan dispute likely to top agenda

The Trump administration looks eager to have a deal in Afghanistan and believes Pakistan will play a major role in attaining it.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had during his recent visit to Kabul indicated that a peace deal was possible by Sept 1 and that the US “will continue to look to Pakistan for practical measures, cooperation on peace talks and the implementation of any agreement”.

Analysts believe that the impetus for inviting PM Khan came from US Special Envoy for Afghan reconciliation Amb Zalmay Khalilzad.

If Islamabad succeeds in delivering on the US expectations, analysts believe, it could get some short-term engagement. However, there are fears among diplomatic observers that if Pakistan fails to help in materialising the deal, the attempt to revive the transactional relationship will suffer a setback.

The seventh round of talks between the US and Taliban continued for the sixth consecutive day in Doha on Thursday as their negotiators worked hard to conclude an agreement on withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan and the Taliban assurances on not allowing terrorists to use Afghan soil against other countries. The talks have importantly continued despite recent attacks by the insurgents in Kabul and Kandahar.

Doha talks have been facilitated by Pakistan.

At the media briefing, Dr Faisal said Pakistan’s role has been acknowledged by the US and that efforts for peace in Afghanistan would be continued.

“Pakistan would continue stressing the need for an Afghan-led and an Afghan-owned peace process. We hope that these talks could ultimately lead to the result-oriented intra-Afghan dialogue,” he added.

The FO spokesman said Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has conveyed Pakistan’s protest at the flying of banners inscribed with anti-Pakistan messages over the Cricket World Cup venue.

“We have already taken up the issue with the UK government. The British High Commissioner to Pakistan has also met the foreign minister and the matter has been taken up,” he said.

Dawood Ibrahim

Dr Faisal categorically rejected reports that Indian fugitive Dawood Ibrahim is in Pakistan.

At a hearing this week in connection with the extradition of Ibrahim’s aide Jabir Motiwala, a British court was told by FBI counsel that Ibrahim and his D-Company operate from Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, July 5th, 2019