Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi hinted that Islamabad may be willing to discuss the contentious issue of Dr Shakil Afridi which has plagued bilateral relation between the two countries.
“Openings are always there,” said the foreign minister in an interview with Fox News.
Afridi, hailed as a ‘hero’ by the US security establishment for his role in the raid by US special forces that killed al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, is viewed as a traitor in Pakistan.
“He is viewed in a particular light in Pakistan, he is viewed as a traitor in Pakistan. But he is viewed as a friend in the US. So we have to bridge this gap,” said FM Qureshi.
The foreign minister further elaborated that the future of Afridi lies with the courts and not with politics. He added that the now-imprisoned CIA asset went through the due legal process and was given a fair trial and a chance to plead his case.
“He was sentenced, he was convicted and is serving a sentence. We expect you to respect our legal process, as we respect yours,” said FM Qureshi while alluding to interference by the US in the country’s internal affairs.
Qureshi acknowledged that bilateral relations between the once-close allies have “soured” since President Donald Trump took office. The foreign minister reiterated that Pakistan was unjustly blamed for the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan.
“Pakistan is there to help and facilitate, we recognize that a stable and peaceful Afghanistan is in our interest.”
“When you are in a difficult situation you look for scapegoats, for areas and people and institutions that have not delivered to your expectations,” said FM Qureshi while referring to Trump’s bashing of Pakistan and blaming the country for the failure of the US-led coalition to stabilise the war-torn country after a 17-year presence.
Qureshi acknowledged that while relations have ‘soured’ significantly between his country and the United States since Trump took office and publicly ramped up pressure on them to do more to obliterate terrorist sanctuaries, his stance is that Pakistan is being unjustly blamed for the destabilisation of neighboring Afghanistan.
“When you are in a difficult situation you look for scapegoats, for areas and people and institutions that have not delivered to your expectations,” he said. “Pakistan is there to help and facilitate, we recognize that a stable and peaceful Afghanistan is in our interest.”
Qureshi, during the interview, also said that he was not in the US to seek aid for the country.
“I am not here to talk dollars and cents, I am not here seeking aid,” Qureshi added. “I am here to fix a relationship that went sour – a relationship that has mutually-benefited both sides. We have been allies for a long time, it is time to rebuild that powerful relationship.”
FM Qureshi will meet US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on October 2 in an attempt to reset ties between the two countries.