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Pakistan: 'Common Ground' Remains Elusive In U.S. Talks


Pakistani paramilitary troops enter a cordoned site after gunmen shot dead four fellow soldiers in Quetta in February.

The spokesman for the Pakistani Foreign Ministry says Islamabad and Washington have yet to find "common ground" on a range of issues, including U.S. accusations that Pakistan is not pulling its weight in the fight against terrorism.

Mohammad Faisal made the remarks in an interview with RFE/RL on March 31, days after a senior U.S. State Department official arrived in Pakistan for high-level talks.

The State Department said earlier that senior bureau official for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Ambassador Alice Wells would discuss Washington's strategy for the region and "Pakistan's stated commitment to eliminate all terrorist groups present in its country."

Wells' meetings in Pakistan included talks with Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua and national security adviser Nasser Khan Janjua.

Faisal described talks with Wells in Pakistan as positive but said that the two sides were still seeking "common ground."

"The main purpose of these talks is to find that common ground," he told RFE/RL.

In January, the State Department said it was suspending at least $900 million in security assistance to Pakistan, after President Donald Trump criticized Islamabad for not doing enough to combat terrorism.

Afghan officials, along with the Trump administration, have accused Pakistan of providing a safe haven for terrorists operating in Afghanistan, a charge Islamabad denies.

Asked about U.S. criticism that Pakistan must step up its counterterrorism efforts, Faisal said arrangements must be made for the return of an estimated 3 million Afghan refugees currently living in Pakistan.

"Besides, there is the issue of poppy cultivation and the use of opium money in the war. And attacks from Afghanistan inside Pakistan also continue. When all these problems are addressed, so the rest of the issues will also be resolved," Faisal said.

Vice President Mike Pence earlier this month told Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi that Islamabad "must do more to address the continued presence of the Taliban, Haqqani network, and other terrorist groups operating in their country," the White House said on March 17.

A senior U.S. administration official said a day earlier that Pakistan has done "the bare minimum to appear responsive to our requests."

With reporting by Geo.tv
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    Radio Mashaal was launched in January 2010 in order to counter a growing number of Islamic extremist radio stations in Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province (now Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province) and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas along the border with Afghanistan.

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