Haqqani rejects reports of US pressure

May 27, 2010

WASHINGTON: Pakistan's ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani rubbished reports that top US officials coerced Pakistan last week into launching anti-militant operations.

He said that the discussions between the US National Security Advisor and Pakistani leaders were part of their ongoing dialogue. Ambassador Haqqani also made a strong case of Pakistan's continuing counter terrorism efforts and stressed that the sacrifices and "crucial" role of its security and intelligence organizations be recognized.

"Did Gen Jones put any pressure on Pakistan? No, he did not," Haqqani told members of Asia Society here on Wednesday evening. He was asked whether US National Security Advisor James Jones and CIA Director Leon Panetta, who travelled to Islamabad weeks after the failed Times Square bombing attempt by an American citizen of Pakistani descent, had actually threatened Pakistan.

The envory questioned the veracity of media accounts claiming that Washington had threatened Islamabad, terming them as conjecture. "It's an ongoing process of dialogue. I was fully briefed (prior to the scheduled visit) what they intended to discuss there. I have been fully briefed about the discussions," he stated in the diplomatic dialogue hosted by the Pakistani embassy.

"A lot of it is just speculation and assumption," he said of reports appearing in parts of the American media. Ambassador Haqqani praised the Pakistani-American community's response to the Times Square attempt.

Faisal Shahzad, the Times Square suspect, is the only member of the community charged so far, Haqqani noted. "So there is no reason for the Pakistani-American community to feel threatened." "The Pakistani-American community has risen and spoken against it and made it clear that one individual should not define our entire community.

Most Pakistanis come to the United States to pursue the American dream he (Faisal Shahzad) wanted to shatter it and is not part of the mainstream Pakistani-American community. "No one in America or in the American government blames Pakistan as a nation or Pakistani-American community for the actions of Faisal Shahzad and nor should they do that."

In the interactive session, the ambassador also highlighted the role that Pakistani intelligence service, ISI, is playing in the fight against terrorism. He said that the ISI is not a mysterious organization but a national security organization, which is on the frontline of the counter terrorism efforts.

He reminded the gathering that it is the same service which was the main actor in the US-supported fight against Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s. "The ISI is playing a very crucial role in the fight against terrorism, people don't realize that 600 members of the organization have been killed in the fight against terror.

Its a classic case of being selective about history while (former US lawmaker) Charlie Wislon remains a hero (for rallying support for Afghan jehad), the ISI, which executed the strategy, is not." "It is only a matter of time before there is a wider recognition of the (anti-terror) achievements that have come about (by) the contribution that the ISI is making," he added.

Pakistanis, he said, were firmly determined to progress as a democracy and a vibrant economy and eliminiate terrorists from the soil. Demonizing the country or its institutions will not help, he argued.

The ambassador said Pakistan and the United States are striving to build a strategic partnership in contrast with fair-weather nature of the pastrelationship, marked by periods of close cooperation and estrangement. At the same time, he argued that neither the US nor Pakistan should expect the other to do what is not deemed in its national interest.

Partnership needs "some level of sustained energey, consistency process of constant engagement rather than a day-to-day (relation) at tactical level I think it is being done now with a deeper level of engagement (between the two sides) and a multi-layered partnership. "It (partnership) is about absorbing disagreements and recognizing that the need that our partnership far outweighs the disagreements we may have on specficis."

The ambassador also entertained a host of questions about the South Asian regional scenario vis-a-vis Pakistan-India relations. He said Pakistan was committed to rooting out any terrorists operating from its soil and wanted a stable Afghanistan, which works as a friend with Islamabad.