Posted by: 1pakistani | April 7, 2009

‘Stern’ reply to US from Pakistan Government and Pakistan Army

Pakistan rejected today a US proposal for joint operations in the tribal areas against terrorism and militancy, as differences of opinion between the two countries over various aspects of the war on terror came out into the open for the first time.

Highly-informed sources said the move followed a collective decision reached between the government and security establishment to adopt a tough posture against a barrage of attacks and criticism emanating in recent weeks from Washington, directly targeting the Pakistan army and the ISI and creating doubts about their sincerity in the war on terror and the fight against Al Qaeda and Taliban.

Two top US officials, presidential envoy for the region Richard Holbrooke and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, had come to Islamabad with the idea of doing some tough talking and pressuring both the political and the military leadership to step up their efforts in the war on terror.

Instead, what they got was a barrage of criticism of the American position and the allegations constantly levelled against Islamabad about either protecting some Taliban elements or not doing enough to eliminate what the United States believes are the main elements carrying out attacks on Nato forces in Afghanistan.

According to a source in the US delegation, the stance taken by the Pakistani side came as a rude shock to the Americans, who had so far been taking the civilian and military leadership for granted.

The sources said that army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, during his meeting with Mr Holbrooke and Admiral Mullen, also took a tough stance over drone attacks. He voiced serious concern over the tirade of allegations against Inter-Services Intelligence levelled by US generals and said that linking the ISI with the Taliban was inappropriate.

The US officials were told that it would be difficult to bridge the trust deficit if statements maligning the ISI kept coming from the United States, ignoring the contributions of the Pakistan army and ISI in the war on terror.

The sources also said that the ISI chief, Gen Asif Shuja Pasha, declined to separately meet the US officials, obviously because of the campaign launched against the premier intelligence agency, but perhaps citing other engagements. It was a clear expression of his annoyance over the well-organised campaign by a section in the US administration to single out the ISI for its criticism.

At the joint press conference with Mr Holbrooke, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, quite in contrast with his usual diplomatic, effusive and soft-spoken demeanour, was quite firm and categorical in mentioning Pakistan’s reservations with regard to the way the US was handling its ally in the war on terror and its anti-Pakistan campaign.

The disagreements between the two sides pertained largely to the drone strikes in Pakistani territory and the vilification campaign against the ISI. ‘While there are some positive elements and we recognise and appreciate them, there are certain red lines,’ Mr Qureshi said in a passionate tone, adding that those ‘red lines’ were discussed and he would take them up at a subsequent US-Pakistan-Afghanistan trilateral interaction planned for next month in Washington.

Mr Qureshi said: ‘We did talk about drones and let me be very frank: there is a gap between us and them.’

Mr Qureshi’s message perhaps could not have been more unequivocal; he stated that cooperation could continue only if balance and respect were restored to the relationship.

‘We can only work together if we respect each other and trust each other. There is no other way and nothing else will work,’ he said rather bluntly.

Reacting to President Barack Obama’s assertion that there would be ‘no blank cheques for Pakistan”, the foreign minister said: “We neither accept nor give one.”

Mr Qureshi also said that Pakistan’s expectations from its friends were not just monetary. ‘We have certain expectations from the Friends of Democratic Pakistan. Most importantly, these expectations are not cents and dollars; rather it is the political support that Pakistan expects from them.’

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