Prominent US Republican Senator John McCain said it is reprehensible that Pakistan’s spy agency maintains a close relationship with the Haqqani network that is responsible for American deaths in Afghanistan.
Addressing a packed hall at American think tank Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, Senator McCain said he had sympathy for Pakistan’s military since the Pakistani government is dysfunctional, but said that it remained a “source of never-ending frustration” that the Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) had a continuous relationship with the Haqqani network, when Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani is responsible for appointing the head of the ISI.
In response to a question on Gen Kayani’s recent statement on India, the US senator said that while he appreciated it, the fact remains that the Pakistan Army’s best troops and equipment were on the border with India, and not Afghanistan.
He criticised the Obama administration’s policy on reconciliation with the Taliban. He said the US should have a strategic partnership with Afghanistan, saying it would “demonstrate to Pakistan that continued support for the Taliban will leave them more isolated and less secure.”
In response to a question on Kashmir dispute, Senator McCain said that it was not an excuse for Pakistan to not break ties with the Haqqani network. However, he admitted that Kashmir, ‘one of the most beautiful places on earth’, remains a longstanding problem.
Senator McCain called the incident of US soldiers photographed with body parts of Afghans published in the Los Angeles Times as ‘deplorable and despicable’. He said it tarnished the work that US soldiers are doing out here, and said that 99.9% of young Americans serving in Afghanistan have the highest standards.
Earlier, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US Sherry Rehman said that her country has no connection with terrorist organisations that are creating unrest in the region.
In an exclusive interview with Express News, Ambassador Sherry said the US has expressed concerns about its defence, but Pakistan, too, has ‘red lines’ that should not be crossed.
She said Pakistan does not consider Afghanistan a ‘strategic backyard’.
“Negotiations with the US will be held in light of the parliament’s recommendations,” she said, adding that “Pakistan will in no way compromise on its sovereignty.”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 19th, 2012.