After weeks of shuttle diplomacy and a flurry of visits by high-level US officials to Pakistan, strained relations between the war on terror allies appeared to thaw when Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said that ties between the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the CIA have eased.
“Strained relations have now been repaired,” said Gilani while talking to journalists at his residence in Lahore.
Gilani said Pakistan will continue intelligence sharing with the US, adding that Washington had been told in clear terms that unilateral action inside the country would not be tolerated.
On a question of drone strikes, Gilani said they are counter-productive and two governments had yet to resolve their differences on the policy of drone strikes.
Relations with the US had turned sour after subsequent incidents involving the US contractor Raymond Davis arbitrarily shooting two men in Lahore in January, followed by a covert US operation deep inside Pakistani territory that killed al Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden in early May.
The relations between CIA and ISI had soured to such an extent that the prime minister admitted in a TIME magazine interview that the cooperation between the two intelligence agencies had broken down.
High profile visits over the past week and half included CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell, the US Chief of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen and the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
However, after numerous attempts from both sides to salvage the critical relationship, it appears that the two agencies are set to work together again.
Last week, a group of CIA investigators were granted access to Osama’s compound in Abbottabad for nearly four hours.
Gilani said that Pakistan would continue its long-term strategic relationships with the US.
The premier said that Islamabad sought help from the US to overcome the energy crisis, adding that he asked the Americans to invest in the energy sector to gain the favour of the Pakistani public.
He said he asked the American leadership for more trade than aid, adding that market access to Pakistani businessmen would help strengthen the country’s economy.
Terming the formation of an independent commission to investigate the Abbottabad incident “imminent,” Gilani said consultations with different parties were underway and the commission would be constituted after that.
He added, however, that “there are no deadlines in politics,” according to a press release from the prime minister’s media cell.
When asked about formation of an investigation commission over the PNS Mehran incident, Gilani said the government is “reviewing the formation of a commission over [the incident],” adding that the Naval chief has also expressed his wish to probe the incident through a commission.
Gilani said the US has promised to give Pakistan the rest of the P3C Orion aircraft as per the agreement, and will also substitute the aircraft that were damaged during the terrorist attack at PNS Mehran.
He added that: “Terrorists are terrorists and there are no good Taliban and bad Taliban.”
Published in The Express Tribune, May 30th, 2011.
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