WASHINGTON: The US State Department said on Monday that it had no “specific communications” to report on a protest note from Pakistan over the killing of TTP leader Hakimullah Mehsud.
On Saturday, Pakistan reportedly summoned US Ambassador Richard G. Olson to the Foreign Office to formally protest the attack.
But when reporters asked State Department’s deputy spokesperson Marie Harf about the reported protest at a briefing in Washington, she said: “I have no specifics about communications to read out for you.”
She underplayed Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s threat to cut off Nato supply lines from Nov 20 and pointed out that it had come only from one political party and that the Pakistani prime minister recently paid “a very productive” visit to Washington as the country’s elected representative.
Pakistan once closed the routes in 2011 after a US strike on one of its checkposts killed 28 Pakistani soldiers.
Ms Harf once again refused to confirm or deny Mehsud’s death, saying: “I will not comment one way or the other.” But she did characterise Mehsud as a “direct threat” to US national security interests.
“He is a direct threat to US national security interests … he and his groups were involved in the (failed) Times Square bombing and in killing 7 Americans (in Afghanistan),” she said. “He and TTP in general have extensive link to Al Qaeda.”
A reporter pointed out that she was still using the present tense while talking about Mehsud. “Does it mean that you still believe he is alive?” the reporter asked.
“Not going to confirm the report, one way or the other,” she said and once again pointed out that Mehsud “himself has been a direct threat to US national security interests”.
She recalled that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif recently paid “an incredibly broad-based” visit to Washington, discussing a whole range of issues with senior officials from various sections of the US government.
Describing it as “a very good visit,” Ms Harf said the dialogue between the two countries covered all aspects of this bilateral relationship.
When another journalist said that statements coming from Pakistan showed a very different picture, Ms Harf said Prime Minister Sharif had visited Washington as a representative of the Pakistani people and government and held “a very wide-ranging and productive dialogue” with President Barack Obama.
She recalled that the US leader had stressed America’s strong commitment to the people of Pakistan during his meeting with Mr Sharif.
Ms Harf noted that President Obama too had acknowledged that “there inevitably will be some tensions and occasional misunderstanding” with Pakistan but he had also said that the goodwill between the two countries will continue.