Pak-US war of words escalates over ISI's Haqqani network link
REZAUL H LASKAR
Islamabad, Sep 23: Rattled by US' assertion that ISI was acting in tandem with the Haqqani network in Afghanistan, Pakistan's civil and military leadership today collectively hit back at Washington, contending that its accusations were "not based on facts" and could estrange an ally.
The charge was led by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani who said that the Americans could not effectively fight the ongoing war in Afghanistan without Pakistan's assistance.
"They can't live with us. They can't live without us," Gilani told reporters in Karachi, hours after his Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar warned the US that it could lose an ally by such comments that alienated the people of Pakistan.
The war of words further escalated today with the White House asking Pakistan to break "any link they have" with the Haqqani network, which the top US commander Admiral Mike Mullen had blamed yesterday for the September 13 attack on US embassy in Kabul, and Pakistan Army chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani describing the remarks as "not based on facts.
The fresh exchange of salvos started yesterday when Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mullen, told US Senators that ISI provided support to the Haqqani terror network in carrying out the recent attack on the country's embassy in Kabul.
Reacting to the severe indictment, Pakistan Foreign Minister lashed out at Washington and said it cannot afford to alienate Pakistan.
"We have conveyed to the US that you will lose an ally. You cannot afford to alienate Pakistan, you cannot afford to alienate the Pakistani people," she said in New York.
"If they are choosing to do so, it will be at their own cost," she said in a hard-hitting statement.
Kayani too joined ranks with Pakistan's civilian leadership, saying Mullen's remarks were all the more disturbing as they came after a constructive meeting between the two sides following months of mistrust ever since the ties nose-dived in the aftermath of Osama bin Laden's killing in Abbottabad in a US military raid.
"This is especially disturbing in view of a rather constructive meeting with Admiral Mullen in Spain," said Kayani.
The US Admiral's tough words marked the first time a top US military official had linked ISI directly to the terror groups, signalling a significant change in the American approach towards Islamabad.
In Washington, in a reiteration of Mullen's stand, White House spokesperson J Carney said US' concerns on the Haqqani network have repeatedly been discussed with Pakistan.
"We know that the Haqqani network was responsible for the attacks on our embassy in Kabul," Carney said.
"We know that the Haqqani network operates from safe havens in Pakistan, and that the government of Pakistan has not taken action against those safe havens. This has been a longstanding concern of the United States, and one that we discussed with Pakistan, in public and in private," he said.
Carney said that it was "critical" that Pakistan "break any links they have and take strong and immediate action against this network so they are no longer a threat to the United States or to the people of Pakistan".
While Khar was more attacking in response, Gilani sought to play down tensions by saying: "So, I will say to them (US) that when they can't live without us, they should increase contacts to end misunderstandings with us".
Lastupdate on : Fri, 23 Sep 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Fri, 23 Sep 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sat, 24 Sep 2011 00:00:00 IST
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