WASHINGTON - Marching on with his mega-successful visit of the United States, Prime Minister Imran Khan also on Tuesday has a string of engagements, including meetings with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and a delegation of donors, and a wide-ranging address at a leading US think-tank.

After his Monday’s landmark meeting with President Donald Trump in which the American leader offered to mediate on the Kashmir issue between Pakistan and India, Imran Khan in an interview with Fox News took another step to put India on the back foot. He said his country would give up its nuclear weapons, if India did the same.

In a series of tweets early Tuesday, Imran Khan expressed his surprise at the Indian reaction to President Trump’s offer of mediation to bring Pakistan and India to dialogue table for resolving Kashmir conflict, which had held the subcontinent hostage for 70 years.

“Generations of Kashmiris have suffered & are suffering daily and need conflict resolution,” the prime minister said.

Imran Khan assured the US president about Pakistan’s all-out support for the Afghan peace process. “I want to assure President Trump, Pakistan will do everything within its power to facilitate the Afghan peace process. The world owes it to the long-suffering Afghan people to bring about peace after four decades of conflict,” he added.

l PM says Pakistan, US are on same page for Afghan peace

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l Will meet Taliban leaders soon

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He thanked the US president for his warm and gracious hospitality, his understanding of Pakistan's point of view and his wonderful way of putting the entire delegation at ease.

He appreciated the US president for taking out time to show them the historic White House private quarters.

The prime minister in a separate tweet thanked the Pakistani-American community for showing up in large number at the Capital One Arena to welcome him. “I want to thank the Pakistani-American community for showing up in such a large number at Capital One Arena in DC to show support and welcome me on my first visit to the USA as prime minister of Pakistan,” he said.

POMPEO’S CALL ON PM

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on Prime Minister Imran Khan at Pakistan House in Washington on Tuesday.

Expressing satisfaction at his wide-ranging talks with President Trump at the White House Monday, the Prime Minister said that convergence on promoting a political solution in Afghanistan had created the opportunity for regional peace and stability. He added that a peaceful and stable Afghanistan was vital for Pakistan. He emphasized the importance of close collaboration between Pakistan and US to advance that objective.

The Prime Minister said that a strong Pakistan-US partnership remained vital to the promotion of the mutual interests of the two countries as well as broader regional peace, stability and prosperity. Reiterating his government’s support to a broad-based and enduring Pak-US relationship, the Prime Minister emphasized the need to further enhance and diversify the bilateral content of the relationship in a wide range of areas.

The Prime Minister also spoke about his government’s successes in countering the scourge of terrorism and his initiatives to build peace in the region. He noted that the Government of Pakistan had taken myriad administrative and legal measures to mainstream madaris.

As part of his policy of “peaceful neighbourhood”, the Prime Minister highlighted Pakistan’s desire for peaceful and cooperative relations with all neighbours. He underscored the various initiatives taken to advance this objective with regard to India. The Prime Minister underlined that the peace dividend for both countries would be enormous with peaceful resolution of all outstanding disputes and would usher in an era of peace, progress and prosperity in South Asia.

Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood, Ambassador Asad M Khan and Aftab A Khokhar Additional Secretary (Americas) joined the meeting.

Secretary Pompeo was accompanied by Under-Secretary for Political Affairs David Hale, Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells and Paul W Jones, US Charge d’Affaires in Islamabad.

Earlier, a delegation of Pakistani American donors called on Prime Minister Imran Khan. The donors reaffirmed their support and commitment to the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital.

Speaking at the US Institute of Peace, Prime Minister Imran Khan hailed his White House meeting with President Donald Trump as a “pleasant surprise,” saying the Pakistani side was blown over by the US leader’s welcome and conversation.

“It was a pleasant surprise. We were all blown over. We loved the meeting,” Khan said.

Imran said Pakistan and the US now had the best relationship in years. “Now we will ensure that there is no communication gap,” between the two sides, he said referring to years of trust deficit between the two countries in the past.

He said his government had “stabilized the economy” which he inherited in a state of virtual bankruptcy.

“Now we can move ahead and start reforms,” he said, citing his government’s agenda of improving the education sector, stepping economic growth, expanding tax collection, boosting exports and narrowing fiscal account deficit.

He said Kashmir dispute had held back development in South Asia. Kashmir should be resolved as per aspirations of Kashmiri people, he added. "There is a solution and the solution has to be with the will of the Kashmiri people."

He also spoke about Islamabad’s efforts to launch peace bids with India and improve ties with Afghanistan.

The worst phase in the Pakistan-US relationships was over, he said referring to years when the US escalated the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan region and Pakistan fought America’s war on terror at a high human and economic cost, but was still not trusted.

Imran recalled his meetings with Democrats in 2009, and said he tried to explain to them that there was going to be no military solution, but felt they had no understanding of Afghanistan. “Fortunately this time, people now understand,” he said.

“We are all on the same page that is why we have the best relationship now in years,” Imran said regarding President Trump’s ongoing quest to find a negotiated settlement to the Afghan conflict.

“Peace in Afghanistan will come about through peace talks,” he said.

Referring to the ongoing process of facilitating talks with the Taliban, he said, “If we all work together then this is the best chance for peace in Afghanistan.”

The prime minister said now that he had spoken to President Trump and President Ghani, he would meet Taliban when he went back to Pakistan. The militant group should talk to the Afghan government, he added.

REBUILDING STATE INSTITUTIONS

Imran Khan said that his government was rebuilding the state institutions which bore the brunt of previous rulers’ unchecked corruption through money laundering.

During his address at USIP, he said corruption was a major threat to Pakistan’s economy and when the PTI government came to power, the country was at the brink of being declared bankrupt.

He said the previous ruling elite had targeted the state institutions by weakening them as in the presence of strong anti-graft institutions, they could not have laundered the money abroad.

“Rebuilding these institutions may take time and we are rebuilding them,” he said, adding though the process would be slow.

He termed the flight of money in the developing countries through money laundering as the biggest threat than hunger and poverty.

The prime minister said when he formed his political party (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) on the anti-corruption platform people could not relate corruption with the ruling classes. But suddenly, people realized the threat and his party took off forming provincial and federal governments.

 

QUESTION-ANSWER SESSION

 

Imran said that Pakistan wanted its ties with the US based upon mutual trust and as equal partners sans seeking any aid.

In response to a query about his final words to sum up his US visit, he said Pakistan did not seek a friendship of the past which was based upon seeking aid from the US.

After his maiden visit to the US, the prime minister said he was happy to have a dignified relationship between the two countries with a mutual trust over peace process in Afghanistan.

He said he hated the phrase ‘aid’ when someone asked about it and termed this expression ‘one of the biggest curses for his country.’

The prime minister said "the dependent syndrome was the most humiliating for a country." A country could only rise through self-respect and self-esteem and not by begging, he added.

To a question about censorship on press in Pakistan, the Prime Minister said the present government would be the most inclusive government as for as the freedom of press was concerned.

“Pakistan media is even free than British media,” the prime minister said adding that strengthening media watchdogs was not censorship.

He said he himself was the biggest beneficiary of free media as he forwarded his message to the people through media. But added that media should avoid personal attacks and not a become party.

About minorities issue, the prime minister said that the minorities had full protection in Pakistan and what the present government had done for them, no government had done before.

Referring to the case of Aasia Bibi, a blasphemy accused, the prime minister said when the Supreme Court of Pakistan acquitted her, thousands of protesters mainly belonging to the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) came on the streets in protest, but the government took them out and put their leadership in jails.“We are treating our minorities as equal citizens as according to Pakistani Constitution minorities are equal citizens of the country,” the prime minister added.

With regard to Iran and its tensions with the US, the PM said: "People don't understand the gravity of the situation" of a war with Iran and that such a war would be catastrophic for the world and for Pakistan.