Enhancing ties with Pakistan top priority, says US envoy Donald Blome

New US Ambassador to Pakistan Donald Blome said on Tuesday that enhancing ties with Pakistan was his “top priority” and that they wanted more American companies to invest in Pakistan.

“Enhancing ties is our top priority. We welcome US investment in the stock exchange, and we want more and more companies to come to Pakistan,” he said.

Blome expressed these views during a visit to the Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) where he rang the bourse’s gong to mark the beginning of the trading session.

The US envoy highlighted the need for measures to “strengthen trade ties with Pakistan” and said that US companies were manufacturing excellent products.

The US envoy said on the occasion that it was his first visit to Karachi and he was pleased to have visited the PSX.

“This is my first trip to Karachi and I am feeling really good after arriving here,” he said.

He added this year would mark the completion of 75 years of ties between the US and Pakistan

PSX Chairperson Shamshad Akhtar also spoke on the occasion and said: “We have to work together with developed countries and make the country progress.”

She said the US and Pakistan have good trade ties since 1970.

The US envoy’s visit to the PSX comes after he signalled Washing­ton’s intention to move on from the regime change controversy — which is rooted in former prime minister Imran Khan’s claim of the US orchestrating his ouster from the government — by engaging in a robust two-way communication with the country’s government, political parties and civil society.

Blome — the first full-time American envoy in Islamabad after a gap of almost four years — assumed the charge of his assignment when Afghanistan is apparently no more a dominant issue in the bilateral ties following last year’s withdrawal of US forces from there at the end of the 20-year-long war — the longest in American history.

Instead, the heightened anti-American sentiment in Pakistan following Imran’s allegations has become the foremost challenge for Washington in executing its foreign policy goals in Pakistan.

In an interview with Dawn, published today, the US envoy rejected Imran’s allegations and said Washington was “very clear” about that.

“However, I think the best thing we can do going forward is to keep engaging across all levels of Pakistani society, as we have for the past 75 years!” he said, adding the engagement wouldn’t be limited just with the government but would extend to political leaders, the business community, civil society, and the youth.

He identified trade, health, climate, and education as other areas where cooperation could be expanded between the two countries.

Blome also said the US was seeking “a strong partnership with Pakistan on counterterrorism” and expected from Islamabad “sustained” and indiscriminate action against all militant and terrorist groups.

The ambassador was specifically asked to clarify if US pursuit for strengthening counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan included negotiations over drone basing access closer to Afghanistan, but he avoided a direct reply.

“The United States is committed to preventing the re-emergence of terrorist threats, in Afghanistan or anywhere else. Fighting terrorism is a global effort. We will continue to engage partners, allies, and key states around the world on how best to address terrorism,” he said while referring to President Joe Biden’s statement in which he had talked about developing capabilities and deploying assets in the region to prevent the re-emergence of terrorists from over the horizon.

On Afghanistan, the envoy said, the US would work with Pakistan to “press the Taliban to prevent terrorist groups from using Afghanistan as a base for external operations and to meet the international community’s expectations — including pressing the Taliban to adhere to their counterterrorism commitments, form an inclusive government, and protect the rights of women and girls”.

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