Rep. Ilhan Omar met with Pakistani authorities on Wednesday, marking the first time a member of Congress has visited the country since a new coalition government took office in Islamabad last week following the fall of former Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Omar met with President Arif Alvi at his office, according to a government release. Omar, one of just a few Muslim members of Congress, had previously met with Khan at his residence in Islamabad.
Omar, a Somali-born Muslim-American immigrant from Minnesota, is a member of the United States House of Representatives.
Pakistan loves its long-standing relationship with the United States, according to Alvi, and hopes that “constructive contacts between the two countries will promote peace and development in the area.” Alvi underlined the importance of mproving 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 U.N. General Assembly to approve a resolution setting March 15 as the International Day to Combat Islamophobia. The resolution emphasizes 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 long-standing relationship with the U.S. 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 ally of the United States in the war on terror since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. But relations deteriorated last month when Khan claimed the U.S. conspired to oust 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 He has been replaced by Prime Minister Sharif, who named his Cabinet the day before.