US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar meets with Pakistani leaders

It was the first visit by a member of US Congress since a new coalition government came into power in Islamabad last week.

Ilhan Omar in Pakistan
Pakistan's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar meets with the US Representative Ilhan Omar in Islamabad [Press Information Department/Handout via Reuters]

United States Representative Ilhan Omar has met with Pakistani leaders in the first visit by a member of Congress since a new coalition government came into power in Islamabad last week after the removal of former premier Imran Khan.

According to a government statement, Omar met with President Arif Alvi at his office on Wednesday.

Omar, one of only a handful of Muslim members of Congress, also met Khan earlier at his residence in the capital, Islamabad.

She is a Somali-born Muslim-American immigrant who represents Minnesota in the US House of Representatives.

Alvi said in the statement that Pakistan values its longstanding relationship with the US and hoped the “constructive engagements between the two countries would promote peace and development in the region”.

Alvi emphasised the need for further improving bilateral relations between the two countries.

The statement quoted Omar as saying that both countries had “huge potential to improve and strengthen relations”. It also said Omar “appreciated the role played by Pakistan” in combating Islamophobia.

Pakistan says it was key to getting the UN General Assembly to approve a resolution setting March 15 as the International Day to Combat Islamophobia.

The resolution emphasises the right to freedom of religion and belief and recalls a 1981 resolution calling for “the elimination of all forms of intolerance and of discrimination based on religion or belief.”

Omar also met with Pakistan’s newly elected Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif.

In a statement released by Sharif’s office, the prime minister said he appreciated Omar’s “courage of convictions and her political struggle”.

Sharif said Pakistan valued its longstanding relationship with the US and wanted to further deepen bilateral cooperation based on mutual respect, trust and equality.

Omar also visited Pakistan’s foreign ministry, where she met with the minister of state for foreign affairs, Hina Rabbani Khar.

Pakistan has been a key US ally in the so-called war on terror since the September 11, 2001, attacks. But relations deteriorated last month when Khan claimed the US had conspired to overthrow his government. Washington has denied the charge.

Khan was removed from power this month through a no-confidence vote by the opposition. He has been replaced by Sharif, who named his cabinet on Tuesday.

Source: Reuters