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Rediff.com  » News » US-Pak face-off worsens, Gilani asks Khar to cut short US visit

US-Pak face-off worsens, Gilani asks Khar to cut short US visit

Last updated on: September 25, 2011 20:45 IST

US-Pak face-off worsens, Gilani asks Khar to cut short US visit

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Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Sunday asked Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar to cut short a visit to the United States and return to Pakistan even as the army's top commanders held a special meeting against the backdrop of mounting tensions with the US over Inter-Services Intelligence's links with terror groups.

Gilani asked Khar, who was representing Pakistan at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, to return to the country immediately, TV news channels quoted official sources as saying.Khar was expected to fly back to Islamabad on Sunday night. There was no official word on the development which follows US allegations that ISI "supported and encouraged" its "veritable arm" Haqqani terror network to launch attacks in Afghanistan.

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Image: Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar
Photographs: Reuters
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Gilani cancelled US trip after Obama refused to meet him

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The premier had earlier called off his visit to the US and sent Khar in his place. Though Gilani said he had cancelled the visit to oversee relief operations in flood-hit areas, reports said he had decided not to go to the US after President Barack Obama refused to meet him on the sidelines of the UN meet.

Khar had been called back to Pakistan as her presence is vital for a meeting of the country's political leadership to be convened by the premier, the official sources were quoted as saying. She was the only member of the civilian leadership to have had direct contact with US officials regardingallegations of the ISI backing the Haqqani network and running a proxy war in Afghanistan. The foreign minister would meet both Gilani and President Asif Ali Zardari on her return, reports said.

Earlier in the day, Pakistan Army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani chaired a six-hour special meeting of his Corps Commanders to review the security situation in the backdrop of growing tensions and sharp escalation of rhetoric with the US.

Image: US President Barack Obama with Pakistan PM Yousuf Raza Gilani
Photographs: Reuters
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Kayani to meet Zardari, Gilani

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There was no official word on what transpired during the meeting but Geo News channel reported that the army commanders rejected the US accusations. They decided to give a "fitting response" to any cross-border attacks by militants based in Afghanistan, the channel reported.

The army commanders agreed that Kayani would meet Zardari and Gilani to take the political leadership into confidence, the channel reported.Gilani too spent a busy day contacting leaders of different political parties to develop consensus on the US accusations.

While Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman called on Gilani, the premier also spoke on phone with Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz chief Nawaz Sharif, Muttahida Qaumi Movement leader Altaf Hussain, Awami National Party chief Asfandyar Wali Khan, PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Jamaat-e-Islami head Munawar Hassan.Gilani discussed the US accusations and his plan to convene a meeting of the country's top political leadership with these leaders. 

Image: Gilani with Pakistan Army chief General Kayani
Photographs: File photo
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'Pak military plays vital role in international security efforts'

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In another related development, Pakistan's second highest ranking military officer expressed "concern about the negative statements emanating from the US". Gen Khalid Shameem Wynne, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, made the remarks during a meeting on Sunday morning with visiting US Central Command chief Gen James Mattis.

Wynne called for "addressing the irritants" in the Pakistan-US relationship which are "a result of an extremely complex situation", a military statement said. Pakistan's armed forces are committed to achieving enduring peace in the region, which will only be possible "through mutual trust and cooperation," Wynne said.

The US embassy said in a statement that Mattis had "candid discussions about the current challenges in the US-Pakistan relationship" with both Wynne and Kayani.Mattis "emphasised the vital role the Pakistan military plays in international security efforts to protect the Pakistani and Afghan people and the need for persistent engagement among the militaries of the US, Pakistan and other states in the region," the statement said.


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US risk losing partnership with Pak if criticism continues: Khar

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Tensions between the US and Pakistan escalated sharply after Admiral Mike Mullen alleged that Pakistan was "exporting" terror to neighbouring Afghanistan.Gen Kayani on Saturday described Mullen's accusations as "not based on facts".

Foreign Minister Khar too warned that the US risked losing its partnership with Pakistan if it continued criticising Islamabad. Reacting to reports that the US could take unilateral action against the Haqqani network, she said Pakistan had set "red lines" for the counter-terrorism cooperation that should not be broken.

Image: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with Khar
Photographs: Reuters
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