Premier departs for three-days US trip on commercial Qatar Airways flight

Prime Minister Imran Khan departed for his 3-day visit to the United States on a commercial Qatar Airways flight.

He will arrive in Washington on Saturday afternoon (local time) and stay at the ambassador’s residence in the city’s diplomatic enclave.

During the premier’s stopover in Doha, he was hosted by Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker, media reported.

The decision to take a commercial flight has been touted as a bid to “save taxpayer money”. The government has repeatedly promised that the entire trip will cost a total $60,000 to the exchequer — significantly less than the much higher expenditures allegedly incurred by past chief executives.

COAS and ISI chief accompany PM

Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and the director general of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) are accompanying the prime minister.

Apparently, this will be the first time that the country’s top generals will accompany a prime minister to a White House meeting with the US president.

Diplomatic official told media that Gen Bajwa would meet Defence Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan, the new chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen Mark Milley and other senior officials during his visit to Pentagon.

This will be Gen Milley’s first meeting with a foreign military leader since his confirmation on Thursday by the US Senate’s Armed Services Committee.

Commenting on the PM’s decision to bring top military officials to Washington, Marvin Weinbaum, a US scholar of South Asian affairs, said: “Policymakers in Washington have noticed that after a long time, Pakistan’s civil and military leaders are on the same page on key issues.”

Weinbaum said Afghanistan and terrorism were two primary concerns of the Trump administration in South Asia, and they knew on such issues “no major decision can be implemented in Pakistan without the army’s support.”

Prime Minister Imran’s itinerary

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, while discussing the prime minister’s schedule, said that he will arrive in Washington on Saturday afternoon and will stay at the ambassador’s residence in the city’s diplomatic enclave. In the evening, he will meet people who have had a long association with the PTI and have been instrumental in helping organise the visit.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Imran will meet IMF chief David Lipton and his delegation and will later have a similar meeting with the World Bank president. Later in the evening, he will attend a community event at Washington’s Capital One Arena.

“We are expecting between 15,000 and 20,000 people,” said chief organizer of the event Dr Abdullah Riar.

His other engagements include a meeting of Pakistani-Americans investors, media interviews, addressing the US-Pakistani Business Council and a dinner meeting with selected leaders of America’s corporate sector.

On Monday, the prime minister will arrive at the White House and after the book signing ceremony, he will attend two sessions: a small group meeting and an extended meeting. The first meeting will be in the Oval Office and the second in the cabinet room.

Prime Minister Imran will also have a one-on-one meeting with President Trump. The US leader will accompany him on a White House tour that will give them more time “to mingle and chat”, the foreign minister said.

On July 23, US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo will call on the prime minister. Prime Minister Imran will also address a meeting at the US Institute of Peace and have lunch with newspaper editors. Later, he will go to Capitol Hill for a meeting with the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate and later address the bipartisan Pakistani American Caucus. So far, 40-plus lawmakers have reportedly already signed up for this meeting.

PM Khan will also meet Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi before returning home on July 23.