Pakistan is using the ‘good offices’ of an influential Pakistani American to arrange a telephone call between US President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Imran Khan, sources told The Express Tribune.
Although it is a ritual that newly elected presidents speak to the prime ministers in Pakistan, Biden has parted ways with the tradition as he hasn’t yet talked to Premier Imran Khan despite being in the office since January.
His predecessor Donald Trump, who was critical of Pakistan during his election campaign, even didn’t wait for his swearing-in ceremony to speak to then prime minister Nawaz Sharif.
There is no clear explanation from the White House as to why Biden avoided a telephone call but observers believe this suggests Pakistan, perhaps, is no more a priority for the US.
Islamabad expressed frustration over the issue but of late PM Imran tried to down play the telephone call issue as in one of his recent interviews he said the president might be busy.
Sources, however, said Pakistan is making efforts and now using informal channels to reach out to President Biden.
For this purpose, Pakistan approached an ‘influential’ Pakistani American to arrange a telephone call between the two leaders.
The influential Pakistani American is a friend of President Biden and Islamabad is trying to use his ‘good offices’. The Foreign Office spokesperson didn’t respond till filing of this report when approached to seek the official version on the subject.
In the past, Pakistan used informal channels to communicate with US presidents. During Trump’s term, Pakistan established direct contact with the US president using his son-in-law and the Saudi crown prince.
READ PM Imran congratulates new US President Joe Biden
Senator Lindsey Graham, who was impressed with PM Imran’s vision, also played a key role in establishing Trump-Imran contact.
It was because of those channels that Trump and Imran met thrice in a short span.But the current administration under Biden returned to the traditional approach routing everything through the established bureaucratic infrastructure.
The sources said Pakistan feels direct contact at the leadership level between the two countries is vital to share and understand each other’s perspective.
Biden is not new to Pakistan since he has vast experience in dealing with Islamabad first as head of the influential foreign relations committee and then as vice president.
He was the original mover of the Kerry-Lugar Act that tripled civilian aid to Pakistan.
Observers believe that Biden’s prior experience of dealing with Pakistan perhaps is working to Islamabad’s disadvantage.
Nevertheless, Pakistani policymakers consider relationship with the US vital and that is why efforts are still on to stay engaged with Washington.
Last month at the sidelines of UN General Assembly session, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a first face-to-face meeting in New York.
Pakistan after the meeting issued a detailed statement but Secretary Blinken did a terse tweet suggesting the mindset of current US administration.
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The meeting, however, at least managed to break some ice as US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman is due to visit Pakistan later this week. She will be the second high-ranking US official to visit Pakistan after back-to-back trips by the CIA chief.
Pakistan feels that despite the US drawdown Washington and Islamabad still need to work closely with each other for long-term peace and stability in Afghanistan.