Pakistan Officials Reject Outside Pressure to Go After Haqqani Network

Posted September 29th, 2011 at 1:55 pm (UTC-5)
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Top Pakistani officials have denied U.S. allegations of connections between Pakistan’s intelligence service and an al-Qaida-linked Afghan militant group, and rejected outside pressure to do more in the war on terrorism.

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told a meeting of leading politicians and top military commanders held in Islamabad Thursday that Pakistan “cannot be pressured to do more.” He said the U.S. accusations had been “surprising” given Pakistan’s “sacrifices and successes” in fighting terrorism.

Mr. Gilani organized the meeting to discuss the U.S. allegations.

The Pakistani prime minister also said the United States should stop blaming his country for regional instability, and that Pakistan’s national interests should be respected. But he added that Pakistan’s doors remain open to the international community for “talks and discussion.”

Thursday’s meeting came a day after U.S. Secretary of States Hillary Clinton said the U.S. is conducting a final review on whether to designate the Haqqani network a terrorist organization.

In testimony to a Senate committee last week, U.S. Admiral Mike Mullen, the outgoing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, blamed the militant group for recent attacks on U.S. targets in Afghanistan. He called the Haqqani network a “veritable arm” of the Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, Pakistan’s main intelligence agency. Pakistan has denied the claim.

The Islamabad meeting was attended by leaders of political, religious and nationalist parties, as well as Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, Pakistan Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Pavez Kayani, and Lt.-Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the head of ISI.

Pakistan’s Geo TV quoted the ISI chief as telling the meeting that the ISI neither exports terrorism nor supports the Haqqani network.

The Reuters news agency, citing Pakistani media, quotes Pasha as telling the meeting that an “American attack on Pakistan in the name of (fighting) extremism is not acceptable” and that Pakistan’s army would be capable of responding. But he was also quoted as saying Pakistan would not allow the deterioration in U.S.-Pakistani relations to reach a “point of no return.”

The White House on Wednesday refused to endorse Admiral Mullen’s statements, instead stressing the importance of Pakistan’s help in the fight against terrorism.

However, White House spokesman Jay Carney said the Obama administration believes there are “links” between the ISI and the Haqqani network, and that the network enjoys “safe havens” in Pakistan. He said Washington wants wants Islamabad to take action against the network and its Pakistani safe havens.

On Thursday, the U.S. imposed sanctions on a Haqqani network commander, Abdul Aziz Abbasin. The U.S. Department of Treasury said Abbasin commands a group of Taliban fighters and has been involved in ambushing supply vehicles of Afghan government forces and the transport of weapons to Afghanistan.

The department Thursday also imposed sanctions on three Taliban financiers and facilitators — two of whom, it said, were based in Pakistan — along with a financial facilitator for al-Qaida and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.

Thursday’s action prohibits anyone in the United States from engaging in transactions with the five individuals targeted for sanctions, and freezes any assets they might hold in the U.S.