Pakistan PM Imran Khan arrived in the US early Sunday on 21st July for a 3-day visit aimed at strengthening Pakistan-U.S relations. This has been the first visit by a Pakistan PM since 2015. Khan is slated to have face to face talks with the US President Donald Trump on Monday. Accompanying the PM is the newly appointed head of the Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan’s spy agency General Faiz Ahmed and army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa.
These talks are very important for Pakistan to rekindle their relationship with the US after the US suspended a $1.3 billion aid to Pakistan last year for Pakistan’s inability to rein in terrorist groups active in its territory. Pakistan’s information ministry’s tweet stated that this meeting between the two heads of state was aimed at working toward peace in Southeast Asia and Afghanistan as well as trade and investment. The discussion of Afghanistan could be based on the role that Pakistan could play in the exit of US troops from the country. New Delhi is also going to be keenly looking at this talk in case of any indications if Pakistan presses for peace talks between Pakistan and India.
In the immediate backdrop of the PM’s trip, terror mastermind, Hafiz Saeed has been arrested. Saeed is responsible for the 2008 Mumbai attacks which led to the death of 166 people including six Americans. The terrorist has currently been sent to custody for seven days. Pakistan has also reopened its airspace which has been closed since the February 14 Pulwama attack. India has labelled these moves as “drama”, citing the fact that Saeed has been sent into custody before but no concrete move has ever been taken. These moves are widely seen as a base and done only to appease the US in the temporary, in hopes of smoother talks.
Khan has also faced a whirlwind of protests since landing in the US. When the Pakistan PM was addressing the Pakistani diaspora, three Baloch youths stood up and started protesting for Balochistan. They have also been running a mobile billboard campaign urging President Trump to end “enforced disappearances” in Balochistan. Balochs living in the US have routinely raised voices in regard to the liberation of Balochistan from Pakistan. The youth protesting for Balochistan during the PM’s address was away from the main podium and did not affect the PM’s speech and he continued uninterrupted whilst local security personnel escorted them out. PM Imran Khan also faced protests from the MQM group or Muttahida Qasmi movement. They demanded an end to human rights abuses in the country, protection against oppression by the Pakistani states and protection from state-sponsored atrocities. The campaigners had all travelled from across the country to protest against the infringement of the rights of the minority groups.
In the meeting between the two heads of states, it is likely that the US is going to press Pakistan to take “decisive and irreversible” action against terrorism in the Southeast Asian territory. Whilst Pakistan through its arrest of Hafiz Saeed probably hoped to convey that this arrest was the harbinger of a safer future, it remains to be seen if the US recognizes the move and is favorable towards Pakistan’s needs.