|Diplomatic shift?: Sharifs to meet US special envoy today|
08 September 2012
Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) President Nawaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif are scheduled to hold a meeting with US special representative to Pakistan and Afghanistan Robin Raphel here on Saturday (today). The envoy will discuss the current political situation, development projects in Punjab and the overall situation on the region with the two leaders, sources told The Express Tribune.
Raphael has met the Sharif brothers thrice over the past few months. The only official statement released pertaining to these meetings said both sides discussed bilateral relations and other issues of mutual interest.
Sources within PML-N, however, say that US diplomats have often discussed future political scenarios with the Sharifs in these meetings. They say Washington is concerned about the military and political setup in Pakistan at a time when it will withdraw forces from Afghanistan. The sources added that US see the current setup as favourable to US and Nato forces, and, therefore, desire its continuity. The diplomats also sought the Sharifs’ opinions regarding Washington’s policies and its presence in Afghanistan.
According to PML-N Deputy General Secretary Ahsan Iqbal, the meeting between the US envoy and the Sharifs is a diplomatic norm and should be continued. He maintained diplomatic staff across the world arranged meetings between Pakistani politicians and politicians from the host country. Iqbal said that diplomats often discussed policy matters and shared their opinions with the politicians. As such, Raphael’s meeting with the Sharifs should not be construed as something serious, he added.
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