ONBOARD PM’S SPECIAL AIRCRAFT:
While Pakistan is facing the far right’s wrath at home and criticism abroad over the circumstances that had led to the killing of al Qaeda kingpin Osama bin Laden, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said on Friday that the United States should not have “bypassed” Pakistan on the Abbottabad raid.
Bin Laden’s death in a US special forces’ unilateral assault on Sunday has been criticised officially and by opposition parties as an “infringement” on Pakistan’s sovereignty, with a warning to the US from civil and military leaders that the repeat of such a raid would spell “catastrophe”.
“There was no need for a shortcut, or to bypass Pakistan,” Premier Gilani said, adding that the issue of violation of sovereignty was a matter of concern for Pakistan. He said it was particularly so in view of the cooperation with the US in matters of intelligence and defence.
Keeping in view the longstanding relations with the US, Pakistan’s sovereignty should not have been violated, Gilani told journalists accompanying him on his visit to France.
Premier Gilani said that the US president had acknowledged Pakistan’s contribution in the ‘war on terror’ and the ongoing intelligence-sharing between the two countries.
However, he said, relations with the United States had seen many ups and downs in the past. Mentioning the incidents of CIA agent Raymond Davis and Osama bin Laden’s killing in a unilateral US raid, he said it would take some time for relations to fully normalise between the two countries.
He said that during his visit he had an opportunity to present Pakistan’s point of view. “There were many misunderstandings and I hope they have been removed.”
In his meetings with France’s president and prime minister, Gilani said he reiterated Pakistan’s contribution in the ‘war against terror’’.
Gilani said he also reminded them that high-value suspects such as alibi and Khalid Shaikh Muhammad have been arrested by Pakistani law-enforcement agencies.
To a question, Gilani said he had not cut short his visit due to the situation back home in the wake of Bin Laden’s killing in Abbottabad. “My official engagements ended tonight and I decided to return home,” he said, dismissing the suggestion that there were any adverse circumstances prompting his return.
Asked about the difference of opinion from various government quarters regarding the Abbottabad raid and its implications for Pakistan’s sovereignty, he said that either he or the information minister would soon deliver a policy statement in the Senate.
Surgical strikes by India
In an apparent reference to arch-rival India, Pakistan said on Thursday that the Abbottabad raid “should not become a future precedent for any country. The statement had come after Indian military officials said they were also capable of carrying out “surgical strikes” in Pakistan to take out wanted militants.
But the US State Department brushed aside the notion of Indian surgical strikes in Pakistan, saying that Bin Laden was “unique” case.
“I don’t want to speculate too broadly about an operation that was clearly unique in the history of the United States and the history of the world, where we had an individual who was possibly the most wanted man in the world and had perpetrated heinous crimes against not only American citizens but citizens around the globe,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner told a briefing in Washington.
He was asked if the same principle that the US used to justify the Abbottabad raid applied to other countries like India and if it would back New Delhi on such a move.
Toner indicated that the current mode of anti-terror cooperation – encouraged by Washington – was the appropriate way to deal with the militants.
“Our counterterrorism cooperation both with India and with Pakistan is ongoing and we believe that it’s directed at exactly these kinds of elements,” the spokesman said, when an Indian journalist drew his attention to the case of the 2008 Mumbai attack suspects.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 7th, 2011.
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