Pakistan has quietly conveyed to the United States to not make any public statement on its planned operation against militants in the restive North Waziristan Agency bordering Afghanistan.
The advice stems from the fact that any remarks by American officials may complicate the Pakistani authorities’ plan to create the ‘necessary environment’ for the Waziristan offensive, a senior government official said.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the official told The Express Tribune that the military does not want to be seen as aligned with the US on the issue of launching a fresh operation in the rugged tribal belt because of growing anti-American sentiments in the country.
The US has long been calling on Pakistan to go after the deadliest Afghan insurgents, the Haqqani network, which is believed to be based in North Waziristan.
Islamabad voiced concerns when US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta disclosed last month that the Pakistani military was planning to start an operation against militants in North Waziristan.
He said Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani had confirmed to Isaf Commander in Afghanistan General John Allen during a meeting that the military would soon launch an operation.
“It was inappropriate for Panetta to make that statement. There was no need for that … it really complicated the situation,” a military official commented.
Reports of the planned offensive immediately invited strong criticism not only from rightwing groups but also the country’s main opposition party, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz.
These parties accused the government of launching the new offensive at the behest of the US. In response to the backlash, Kayani informed top US military commander General James Mattis in August that Pakistan would not conduct the operation because of outside pressure.
The official said the military was planning for a new push against the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) but did not want to give any impression that it was being done under US pressure.
Pakistan’s national interest continues to be the prime consideration for any decision regarding the military offensive in North Waziristan, the official insisted when asked about the timing of opening a new front in the battle against militancy.
Following Pakistan’s request, the US now appears careful in making any public comment on the Waziristan offensive. It was also evident from the statement issued by the US embassy following a recently concluded visit by President Obama’s point man for the region Marc Grossman, who did not make any public remarks on the issue.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 17th, 2012.