ISLAMABAD (AFP) – Richard Boucher, Assistant US Secretary of State for South Asia, is due to visit Islamabad for top level security and counter-terrorism talks, officials said Monday.
Foreign office spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam confirmed the visit but gave no immediate details.
“He is planning a visit but I don’t have a precise date,” Aslam said.
US and Pakistani media have said he is due to arrive Monday on a one-day visit and is expected to meet with President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, among other senior officials.
Boucher’s visit to the key US ally will be his second to Islamabad within a month.
It follows intense pressure on Musharraf to crack down on Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants allegedly holed up in Pakistan’s troubled northwestern tribal belt bordering Afghanistan.
It also comes in the wake of a political crisis triggered by Musharraf’s attempt to sack Pakistan’s independent-minded chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry in March, which caused widespread protests.
The Supreme Court last month reinstated Chaudhry in a major blow to the president, who is also army chief.
Boucher, who with two senior US officials met with Musharraf here in July, will have meetings with Pakistani officials, civil society members and political leaders to “discuss political developments, regional security and counter terrorism cooperation,” state-run Associated Press of Pakistan said in a report from Washington.
“The visit is part of regular consultations in the region,” it said, quoting a US official.
“Pakistan is an important strategic partner on a broad range of matters — education, economic investment, counter-narcotics, security and counterterrorism,” it quoted a US official as saying.
“We appreciate the Pakistanis’ sacrifices in confronting extremists and fighting terrorist threats.”
Last week US President George W. Bush used a White House news conference to urge Musharraf to move toward democracy after the embattled Pakistani leader decided against declaring a state of emergency.
Bush also renewed US calls for full cooperation from Pakistan in the hunt for Al-Qaeda leaders.