Pakistan has postponed the visit of the U.S. acting assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia Affairs following protests in the country against the United States, sources told Reuters on Sunday.
Following a speech last Monday in which U.S. President Donald J. Trump accused Pakistan of working against U.S. interests in Afghanistan by allowing militants safe haven on its soil, multiple protests, organized by proscribed Islamist groups including Jamaat-ud-Dawa, have taken place against the United States in the country. Trump said it was “time for Pakistan to demonstrate its commitment to civilization, order, and peace.”
Alice Wells, the acting assistant secretary of state, was scheduled to visit Pakistan this week in what would have been the most important bilateral U.S.-Pakistan interaction since Trump’s speech following a meeting between U.S. Ambassador in Pakistan David Hale and the Pakistani foreign minister.
“At the request of the Government of Pakistan, Acting Assistant Secretary Wells’ trip has been postponed until a mutually convenient time,” a U.S. Embassy spokesperson in Islamabad told Reuters on Sunday.
Following Trump’s speech last week, the Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement, noting that Hale, the U.S. envoy in the country, had “conveyed that the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson looked forward to meeting the Foreign Minister in the next few days to have an in-depth discussion on the state of play in the bilateral relationship as well as the new U.S. policy on South Asia.”
The Pakistani cabinet also discussed Trump’s speech on Afghanistan and released a statement pushing back against many of the U.S. president’s allegations.
“Pakistan has been and will continue to be part of the global counter terrorism efforts,” the statement noted. “Pakistan and the United States have been close allies in the fight against terrorism, which is a common threat for all nations of the world.”
In a press conference on Friday, a spokesperson for the Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs rejected the notion that the United States and Pakistan were facing difficulties in the aftermath of Trump’s speech.
“In international relations, there can be difference of opinion between two countries, for which there are established channels of communication through which misperceptions can be allayed and differences resolved,” the spokesperson noted.
Nevertheless, the postponement of Wells’ visit could indicate that the Trump administration’s accusations against Pakistan last week could herald a difficult period in ties between Washington and Islamabad.