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Why is US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar Meeting Politicians in Pakistan?

US Representative Ilhan Omar arrived in Islamabad on Wednesday, 20th April. She met with several Pakistani politicians on her first visit to the country. Omar is a Somali immigrant who represents Minnesota in the US House of Representatives. She is 1 of only 3 incumbent Muslim members of the US congress. It is the first time a US representative has come to Pakistan since a new coalition government came to power after the ouster of former PM Imran Khan and his party Pakistan Tahreek-E-Insaaf (PTI). Omar met with new and old government officials and shared talks on several issues. Omar is on a 4-day visit to Pakistan, which will end on 24th April 2022. After Islamabad, visiting Lahore and Kashmir are also on her itinerary.

Ilhan Omar Meets Former Prime Minister

Ilhan Omar met Imran Khan at his residence in Bani Gala, Islamabad. According to reports, both discussed Islamophobia, and Omar appreciated Khan for raising this issue on almost every major platform.

Khan accused the US of plotting with the opposition to remove him from the government. He said the US no longer wanted to see him in power because he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin the day before Moscow attacked Ukraine. Khan became the first Prime Minister in Pakistan to be removed by a no-confidence motion on 10th April 2022.

The President of Pakistan

In his meeting with Ilhan Omar, Pakistani President Dr Arif Alvi said that Pakistan valued its relationship with the US. He hoped that constructive US-Pak engagements would help promote peace and development. Alvi stressed the need for improvement in the bilateral relationship for the mutual benefit of both countries.

Moreover, he highlighted the Kashmir issue, where the Muslim community faced military-level oppression from the Hindu nationalist Indian government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The President mentioned that Pakistan played a key role in promoting peace in the region and making sacrifices against the war on terror.

Alvi also underlined Pakistan’s developing IT sector as an ideal business opportunity for US investors. Omar said that there was a huge potential for improving US-Pak relations. Pakistan was a key ally of the US against the war on terror, but relations deteriorated as Imran Khan increasingly became critical of western decadence.

Speaker National Assembly

Ilhan Omar also met National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, who agreed that enhancing parliament-to-parliament links were essential for improving US-Pak relations. The speaker appreciated Omar for her work in human rights, especially for women, children, and minorities. He also invited other US Congress members to visit Pakistan to improve ties.

Ilhan Omar ensured that her country would continue to help Pakistan, especially in the health, education, and women empowerment sectors. She also invited Ashraf to visit the US congress to improve relations between both countries.

Minister of State for Foreign Affairs

While visiting Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry, she met with the Minister of State of Foreign Affairs, Hina Rabbani Khar. Both talked about how the international community can constructively engage in averting the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. Khar underscored the need to consider the most vulnerable segments of society. She also appreciated Ilhan Omar for raising her voice against Indian atrocities in Kashmir and Israeli oppression in Palestine. Omar thanked Khar for the hospitality the US delegation received during its visit.

New Prime Minister

Ilhan Omar, 1 of the only 2 Muslim women in the US Congress, also met with the new Prime Minister of Pakistan, Shahbaz Sharif. The premier told Omar that Pakistan valued its long-standing ties with the US and wanted to strengthen bilateral collaboration based on mutual respect, trust, and equality. He appreciated her courage, conviction, and political struggle in the US. Sharif hoped that Omar visiting Pakistan would improve exchanges between the Pakistan parliament and the US congress.

Moreover, both reportedly discussed mutual interest matters, bilateral relations, and regional situations. Sharif said that the US was Pakistan’s largest trading partner, and there was a need to enhance cooperation in trade and investment. He praised the Pakistani diaspora for reinforcing US-Pak relations and added that they made a valuable contribution to national growth and development.

In the end, Sharif highlighted the human rights abuses in Kashmir at the hands of Indian forces. He said that a peaceful resolution would enable Kashmir to realise its economic potential and promote social growth. Furthermore, he urged joint efforts to deal with the scourge of Islamophobia.

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