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Pakistan is America's most-bullied ally: Pak Army

November 30, 2010 17:11 IST
Pakistan "has transited from the most sanctioned ally to the most bullied ally" of the United States, a top Pakistani military official has claimed.

The official said the US still has a "transactional" relationship with Pakistan and is interested in perpetuating a state of "controlled chaos" in the country. And the "real aim of US strategy is to de-nuclearise Pakistan," he said. The comments formed part of a wide-ranging briefing given to editors, anchors and columnists on Sunday, the Dawn newspaper reported.

The daily did not name the military official but other media reports said Pakistan army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani had briefed a select group of journalists on completing his first term on Sunday and the briefing came on the day WikiLeaks released thousands of secret American diplomatic cables.

In one of the key documents, US officials alleged that it was Kayani who was behind the conflict over the Kerry-Lugar Bill. The briefing had been scheduled before the diplomatic cables were released by WikiLeaks and the unnamed military official detailed "frank exchanges between the uppermost echelons of the Pakistan military and the Obama administration" and listed "a catalogue of complaints the people of Pakistan have against the US", the Dawn reported on Tuesday.

The official repeatedly stressed that the frames of reference of the US and Pakistan with regard to regional security matters "can never be the same and this must be acknowledged".

The official claimed that the dichotomy between short-term US interests and long-term Pakistani security interests needs to be kept in mind at all times. Among the cables released by WikiLeaks is one revealed tensions between the US and Pakistan over a nuclear research reactor. The cable showed US concern over radioactive materials in the nuclear power station being used in terror attacks.

The US has been trying since 2007 to remove highly enriched uranium from the research reactor. Pakistan's foreign office on Monday acknowledged it had refused to return the nuclear fuel to the US. When the top Pakistani military official was asked about the outlook for relations between the US and Pakistan in the year ahead, he gave a downbeat assessment, "I see difficulties and pitfalls. Things are so complex in the region." 

Referring to Afghanistan, the official suggested the US needs to "clearly identify and state the end conditions in Afghanistan". He claimed the lack of clarity on the Americans' part was because "either they aren't willing to state them or they don't know themselves".

Giving a personal assessment of the situation in Afghanistan, the top army official suggested that the neighbouring country needed a "minimum agenda with broad public support". He said there "are indicators that the parties to the conflict in Afghanistan can renounce Al Qaeda and ask it to leave Afghanistan".

Stressing that in Afghanistan "peace may never be complete, there may be no permanent stability and uncontested power may never establish itself", the official suggested a minimalist, three-step sequential process towards a "peaceful and stable" country.

First, violence in Afghanistan will need to be brought down, and for this "some concessions may have to be made". Next, all parties will have to renounce the Al Qaeda and finally, some kind of consensus on a future Afghan constitution will have to be negotiated keeping in mind the "history, culture and geography" of the country, he said.

The official rejected the possibility of Pakistan intensifying efforts to stop militants crossing into Afghanistan. "If we have to look after the border as well as settled areas, the valleys in the tribal areas, well, that's mutually exclusive. Helmand and Kandahar are hundreds of kilometres from the Pakistan-Afghan border. Kabul is far away from North Waziristan. If they (troops in Afghanistan) want to catch them, why don't they," he asked.

The official was also very critical of the Afghan government. Recounting frequent Afghan accusations of Pakistan keeping the Taliban as an option, shielding the Quetta Shura and harbouring and supporting the Haqqani network, the official responded with a list of Pakistani grievances. "Pakistan is deliberately being kept in the dark regarding peace efforts. It has suffered because of Afghanistan the most. Many Afghans in leadership role continue to hold malice against Pakistan," the official claimed.

However, the official said, "The bottom line is that the destinies of Pakistan and Afghanistan are intertwined and must be seen as one. An early end to conflict in Afghanistan is key to Pakistan."

Referring to US pressure on Pakistan to launch a military operation against the Taliban in North Waziristan, the official said that the US had an increased focus on North Waziristan for understandable reasons and that there was serious domestic cause for concern too. "Most terrorist attacks inside Pakistan originate from North Waziristan. So the question is not if but when and how to tackle it militarily," he said.

But the official cited three factors to downplay the possibility of an imminent operation in North Waziristan. First, South Waziristan needs to be resettled. Second, Pakistan has to prepare for the "serious blowback" of an operation in North Waziristan, which would include terrorist attacks in cities and a fresh wave of displaced persons, and third, the need for the "creation of a political consensus", he said.

The media and the public would have to demonstrate their support for a military operation in North Waziristan before the army would undertake one, the top Pakistani military official said. When told of Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani's comment that there is no need for a fresh consensus because the support for the operation in South Waziristan extends to North Waziristan, the official responded sharply. "I will not do it unless there is a political consensus on North Waziristan."

Kayani, who was appointed army chief by former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf in November 2007, completed his first term in office on Sunday. Earlier this year, Gilani granted the army chief a three-year extension of service. Media reports said Kayani briefed a select group of journalists on Sunday about his priorities in the coming years, including the war on terrorism, the reconciliation process with the Afghan Taliban, and relations with the US and India.

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