The US is not taking at face value Pakistan’s actions against terrorists outfits, including the arrest of Mumbai attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed, and will ensure that these steps are made “irreversible and sustainable” and not just “window dressing”, the White House has said ahead of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s first meeting with President Donald Trump.
A senior Trump administration official explained that by extending the invitation to Prime Minister Khan to visit the White House, the US wants to send a message to Pakistan that the “door is open to repairing relations” and building an enduring partnership if Islamabad “changes its policies” with regard to terrorists and militants.
Relations between Pakistan and the US have been turbulent since Trump took office in 2017, with the president repeatedly singling out Islamabad for failing to rein in extremists and being an unfaithful partner in the fight against terrorism.
Khan, the 66-year-old cricketer-turned politician, is scheduled to meet Trump at his Oval Office on Monday, the first by a Pakistani leader in nearly four years, the last one being that of Nawaz Sharif in October 2015.
The Trump administration is preparing to give him a warm welcome which includes a traditional welcome at the White House, one-on-one meeting at the Oval Office and a working luncheon in the presence of several of the president’s Cabinet colleagues and leaders from the Pentagon.
The senior administration official ruled out lifting suspension of security aid to Pakistan unless it sees sustained, decisive and irreversible action against terrorist and militant groups. “As you know, we suspended security assistance to Pakistan in January 2018. And as of now, there’s no change to that policy,” the official said in response to a question.
“By and large that security assistance is still suspended. We will consider changing that suspension on certain items if Pakistan meets our security concerns both in Afghanistan, and with regard to some of the externally focus groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed. But as of now, there was no change to that suspension and security systems,” the official, requesting anonymity, said.
Given the history of Pakistani cooperation with these unhelpful groups, the US is “not under any illusion”. The initial steps that have been taken thus far, the administration is not taking them at face value, the official said.
“We are monitoring the situation. We will wait and see if the steps are made irreversible and sustainable,” the official said, adding that the Trump administration has “not made a final evaluation” on whether that’s the case.
“We’ve seen this happen in the past. And we have been looking for sustained and concrete steps, not just window dressing,” the official said when asked about the arrest of Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed.
Saeed, a UN-designated terrorist was arrested on Wednesday — the seventh time since December 2001, when he was nabbed in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament.