ISLAMABAD: On the face of it, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani cancelled his planned trip to the US on Friday because ‘he personally wanted to supervise ongoing relief efforts in flood-hit areas of Sindh’. However, there are indications that strained relations between the two countries have led to calling off his trip to America where he was to address a UN General Assembly session.
One reason for calling off the visit, sources told Dawn, was the American president’s refusal to meet him on the sidelines of the General Assembly session scheduled for next week. They said the Pakistan embassy in Washington and consulate general in New York had tried hard to arrange a meeting between Prime Minister Gilani and President Barack Obama, but failed.
There are conjectures about chilly diplomatic ties between the two countries.
Earlier on Friday after attending a scholarship-award ceremony, Prime Minister Gilani said: “Now it’s time that they (United States) should do more.” He made the remark when his attention was drawn to Americans’ lack of satisfaction with efforts from Pakistan in their fight against Taliban and their demand that his government should do more.
The prime minister said Pakistan had already contributed enormously to the fight against terrorism and extremism and stressed that the US should ‘do more’ instead.
The Pakistan-US relations hit a new low after the US officials again pointed fingers at Pakistan after the latest Taliban attack on its embassy in Kabul and adjacent Nato headquarters. Once again the Haqqani network is in the spotlight. The US claims the network has sanctuaries on the Pakistani side of the Afghan border and is behind Tuesday’s attack which lasted nearly 20 hours. In recent weeks, frequency of Taliban attacks on Americans in Afghanistan has substantially increased. Since the Raymond Davis and Osama bin Laden episodes, there has been a serious level of trust-deficit between the two sides.
It was an eleventh hour cancellation because all arrangements related to the trip such as issuance of tickets to members of the delegation and their hotel bookings in New York had been finalised.
“Supervision of flood relief efforts is an excuse, because only this week prime minister had a couple of days’ trip to Iran,” remarked a journalist who was to accompany him to New York.
Referring to British Prime Minister David Cameron’s telephone call to Mr Gilani, he said the Britons had always intervened whenever serious issues beset Pakistan-US relations. Mr Cameron appreciated the prime minister’s decision to call off his visit to New York in view of the devastation caused by massive rains in Sindh, a handout said.
BALOCH’S DEPRIVATION: Addressing the ceremony held to welcome 30 students selected under the ‘Prime Minister’s Scholarship Programme for Talented Youth from Balochistan,’ Mr Gilani said the development and prosperity of the province was the government’s top priority. He vowed to bring the Baloch people into the national mainstream to end their sense of deprivation.
Under the programme, 150 students from all districts of Balochistan have been selected after written test and interviews. Of them, 30 girls will study in the capital’s colleges and boys have been inducted into cadet colleges in Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The students will complete education from class 8 to intermediate and all their expenses will be borne by the government.
The prime minister said his government was trying to alleviate the sense of deprivation among the Baloch people by giving them their rights.