ISLAMABAD: Although the world’s sceptical eye is once again turning to Pakistan in the aftermath of Sunday’s attacks in Afghanistan, Washington appears to be firm on repairing ties with Islamabad as it avoided its concerns from degenerating, for now, into public criticism of its ally’s counter-terrorism record.
The two sides would soon be resuming negotiations on a new framework approved by Pakistan’s parliament for conduct of ties when an American delegation led by Special Envoy Marc Grossman visits Islamabad later this month.
“We’d be happy to accept and welcome a (US) delegation to continue the dialogue on the new terms of engagement,” Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar told Dawn after speaking to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over phone.
The redefined terms of engagement call for stopping drone attacks and allow non-lethal Nato supplies bound for Afghanistan to pass through Pakistani territory. Moreover, the new framework says that relations with the US should be based on mutual trust and respect and demands respect for Pakistan’s sovereignty.
“Both of us are keen to ensure that our mutual interests are served by a partnership approach,” the foreign minister noted.
Although the two foreign ministers conversed about the way forward in the relationship, the attacks in Kabul, blamed on the Haqqani network, also came up for discussion.
“We also discussed the terrible attacks in Afghanistan and our mutual condemnation of acts of terror,” Ms Khar said.
The Kabul attacks also featured during a meeting between Foreign Minister Khar and US Ambassador Cameron Munter earlier in the day.
“Terrorism continues to remain on top of the agenda of our discussions,” a US official said after the meeting.
While authorities in Islamabad are reluctant to talk about the renewed pressure for action against the North Waziristan-based Haqqani network, the US too has been meticulous in choice of words while expressing its concerns as evident from State department’s statement on the Khar-Clinton conversation.
Unlike the previous scathing criticism on the issue of the Haqqani network, which was last year described as “veritable arm” of ISI by former US chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, the State Department this time said the secretary “underscored our shared responsibility for robust action … to confront and defeat terrorists and violent extremists”.
Despite the softening of public tone, a US official said there was no change in position on the link between the Haqqani network and Pakistan.
Pakistan has in the past responded to criticism of its failure to prevent the Haqqani network’s terror from reaching Afghanistan saying it alone can’t be held responsible.
Foreign Minister Khar, during her conversation with her Afghan counterpart Dr Zalmai Rassoul, stressed the need for Pakistan and Afghanistan to work together for eliminating terrorism.
She also condemned the brazen Kabul attacks and “conveyed the solidarity of the government and people of Pakistan with their Afghan brethren on the terrorist attacks of Sunday April 15, 2012 in which many precious lives were lost”.