FO confirms Army chief's contact with US deputy state secretary

Published July 29, 2022
<p>Foreign Office spokesman Asim Iftikhar briefs the media on Friday. — Photo courtesy: Radio Pakistan</p>

Foreign Office spokesman Asim Iftikhar briefs the media on Friday. — Photo courtesy: Radio Pakistan

The Foreign Office (FO) on Friday confirmed that there has been contact between Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa and US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman.

At a weekly briefing today, after confirming Gen Bajwa's contact with the US official, Spokesperson Asim Iftikhar Ahmad said that the FO wasn't aware if the two officials talked about the economy.

"Our understanding is that ISPR (Inter-Services Public Relations) will be able to comment on it," he added.

The FO's statement comes amid reports that the COAS reached out to Washington requesting help in securing an early loan dispersal from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

According to a report published in Nikkei today, Gen Bajwa spoke on the phone with Sherman.

"The sources, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, said Bajwa made an appeal for the White House and Treasury Department to push the IMF to immediately supply nearly $1.2 billion that Pakistan is due to receive under a resumed loan program," it stated.

Pakistan has been mired in economic turmoil with depreciating rupee, sky-rocketing inflation and a spiralling energy crisis, and officials hope the revival of the IMF programme will help bring stability to the country.

Last month, the Fund confirmed it had reached a staff-level agreement with Pakistan on the combined seventh and eighth reviews for a $6 billion loan facility, a development that paves the way for the release of the much-awaited $1.17bn.

However, the tranche will only be released after an executive-level agreement, which has been delayed till late-August.

Imran says not COAS' job to contact US for help

Former prime minister Imran Khan addressed the reports in a television interview broadcast later on Friday.

In an interview with ARY News programme 'Powerplay with Arshad Sharif', Imran said, "if these reports are correct, then it implies we are weakening as a country".

Imran said it was not the army chief's job to undertake such efforts.

He said America would also make demands of Pakistan if it helped Pakistan economically. "I fear our national security will weaken in the face of US demands, and eventually Pakistan will suffer."

Imran Khan gestures during an interview on June 29.—Screengrab from ARY News
Imran Khan gestures during an interview on June 29.—Screengrab from ARY News

He also underlined that his party's funding sources were disclosed, saying "we have a database of 40,000 people who fund us."

Imran alleged the two families — Sharifs and Zardaris — had been "looting" the country for 30 years, adding whether those "having power in Pakistan" had no idea about the alleged graft of the two parties.

"Is it only my job to hold the corrupt accountable," he asked.

Rejection of comments by India

In his briefing, the FO spokesperson said that the FO has completely rejected and strongly condemned the "unwarranted and totally unacceptable comments made by the Indian Defence Minister at a recent event in occupied Kashmir".

"Pakistan has also categorically rejected the baseless and misguided remarks made by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson in an effort to politicise the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)," he asserted.

Ahmed added that attempts to cast aspersions over CPEC showed India’s insecurity as well as the pursuit of a hegemonic agenda which had held back socio-economic development in South Asia for decades.

"It is in fact India that is illegally occupying the State of Jammu and Kashmir for over seven decades while perpetrating gross and widespread human rights violations and effectuating blatant territorial and demographic changes in the occupied territory in complete contravention of international law and relevant UNSC resolutions."

He also highlighted the "politicisation" of 44th Chess Olympiad held in India's Chennai, "by passing the torch relay through Srinagar in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir" which he said was in utter disregard of the globally acknowledged “disputed” status of the territory.

"By way of protesting India’s regrettable and mischievous attempt to mix politics with sports, Pakistan has decided not to participate in the 44th Chess Olympiad and will also raise the matter with the International Chess Federation at the highest level," the spokesman added.

Deteriorating health of Yasin Malik

Towards the end of his briefing, Ahmad said that Pakistan was deeply concerned over the deteriorating health of Hurriyat leader, Muhammad Yasin Malik, saying that the latter continued to suffer for his "legitimate political resistance to India’s illegal occupation of IIOJK".

Read more: Pakistan strongly condemns India’s ‘continued persecution’ of Kashmiri leader Yasin Malik

"We reject this judicial persecution and demand his immediate release," he stressed.

The FO spokesman said that the inhuman incarceration of Yasin Malik, his sham trials under fabricated cases, the fallacious conviction and the malfeasant attempts at tarnishing the legitimate struggle of the Kashmiris for their right to self-determination only further confirmed India’s known credentials as a serial violator of human rights and usurper of fundamental freedoms of the Kashmiri people.

Pakistan, he went on, called upon the Indian government to refrain from victimizing the true representatives of the Kashmiri people by way of inhuman and illegal detentions and implications through sham trials in baseless and fictitious cases.

"Pakistan once again urges the international community to take cognizance of India’s inhuman and illegal detention and treatment of Yasin Malik and of other political leaders, and to ensure that the Kashmiri people can exercise their right to self-determination as promised to them by the UN and the international community," Ahmad added.

Bilawal's visit to Tashkent

The FO spokesperson also talked about Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari leading Pakistan's delegation at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Council of Foreign Minister's Meeting.

He said that the FM reaffirmed Pakistan’s strong partnership with SCO and "our unflinching commitment to the Shanghai Spirit" at the meeting.

"Appreciating SCO’s contributions towards regional economy, security and stability, the FM also drew attention to a number of challenges, including the situation in Afghanistan and importance of averting an economic or humanitarian crisis; combating terrorism; and managing the ancillary effects of the COVID-19 pandemic including reduction in trade flows, declining production, rising inflation and growing unemployment."

Ahmad highlighted that the minister emphasised the importance of multilateralism, cooperative inter-state relations and ‘shared goals for shared prosperity’.

"He also stressed on enhancing connectivity, digitalization of business, sustainability of e-commerce ecosystem and building a more resilient economic model."

Bilawal, he added, was holding bilateral meetings with a number of counterparts including China, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Russian Federation, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.

Khar representing Pakistan at 20th D-8 Council of FMs

Ahmad also revealed that Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar was representing Pakistan at the 20th Developing-Eight (D-8) Council of Foreign Ministers meeting hosted by Bangladesh in a hybrid format on July 27.

"In her statement, the Minister of State called for creating a conducive environment for intra-D-8 trade through facilitative legal frameworks, and equal opportunities for investment and business," the spokesperson said.

Pakistan-US health dialogue

Separately, Ahmad said that Health Minister Abdul Qadir Patel led a Pakistani delegation at the Pakistan-US Health Dialogue which was held at the US Department of State earlier this week.

"Focusing on seven themes, the Health Dialogue was an opportunity for wide-ranging discussions, wherein Pakistan and the United States inter-alia pledged greater exchange of information, expertise, and best practices in fighting diseases."

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