A diplomatic row erupted between the United States and the new government in Islamabad on the issue of terrorism emanating from Pakistan following a telephonic conversation between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday.
A statement issued by US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert after the telephone call said, “Secretary Michael R Pompeo spoke today with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and wished him success. Secretary Pompeo expressed his willingness to work with the new government towards a productive bilateral relationship. Secretary Pompeo raised the importance of Pakistan taking decisive action against all terrorists operating in Pakistan and its vital role in promoting the Afghan peace process.’’
Pakistan was incensed over the statement issued by the State Department in Washington. Pakistan foreign office spokesperson Mohammed Faisal immediately took to twitter saying, “Pakistan takes exception to the factually incorrect statement issued by US State Dept on today’s phone call between PM Khan & Secretary Pompeo. There was no mention at all in the conversation about terrorists operating in Pakistan. This should be immediately corrected.’’
But Washington was in no mood to oblige Islamabad. At the regular State Department press briefing in Washington late Thursday, a reporter drew attention of the spokesperson towards her Pakistani counterpart’s tweet in which he sought correction to the statement issued by her.
The US spokesperson asserted that she stood by her ‘readout’ on the telephonic conversation between the Secretary of State and the Pakistan PM. “We stand by our ‘readout. I don’t necessarily read an entire ‘readout’, word-for-word at the podium,” she told the questioner.
Asked how Pakistan could have got it so wrong when Washington was saying that it did indeed discuss terror, Nauert said, “I’m not going to speculate, okay…And I can’t speak on their behalf. I can only say we stand by our ‘readout’. They are an important partner. The Secretary had a good call with the new Prime Minister and we look forward to having a good relationship with them in the future.’’
This comes days before Pompeo travels to Islamabad in the first week of September to hold talks with the new leadership of Pakistan. Pompeo would perhaps be the first top foreign dignitary to meet PM Khan.
Relations between Pakistan and the US nosedived after President Donald Trump in a tweet in January accused Islamabad of giving Washington nothing but ‘lies and deceit’ and providing ‘safe havens’ to terrorists.