Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani speaks at a dinner he hosted on Saturday for diplomats and donor agencies engaged in flood relief. – Photo by APP

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has for the second time in two days condemned the US allegations linking the ISI with the Haqqani network, but with a difference. In a bid to move forward from the recent blame game being played out, he called for rededication to counter-terrorism cooperation.

“Let’s avoid mutual recrimination and recommit ourselves to working together for eliminating terrorism and for reconciliation and peace in Afghanistan,” Mr Gilani said in what was described as a “policy statement” at a dinner he hosted on Saturday for diplomats and donor agencies engaged in flood relief.

“We strongly reject assertions of complicity with the Haqqanis or of proxy war,” the prime minister said.

His remarks came shortly after Centcom Chief Gen James Mattis met Army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. The visit by the top US commander amid the crisis in ties generated by disparaging statements given by retiring Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen about Pakistan and the subsequent comments by Mr Gilani reflect the mutual desire to keep the bruised relationship from rupturing.

“Blame-game is self-defeating… It will only benefit the enemies of peace. Only terrorists and militants will gain from any fissures and divisions,” the prime minister emphasised and cautioned against being “carried away by emotions”.

Mr Gilani laid out Pakistan’s vision of the way forward seeking clarity about Afghan endgame and strategic coherence over reconciliation and peace to prevent recurrence of such differences that could imperil the entire relationship.

“There is a need for close policy coordination between Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United States. We need to develop a clear and coherent strategy together. A clear roadmap so that all three i.e. Afghanistan, Pakistan and the US, are on the same page and work together for achieving the stated goal of reconciliation and peace”.

The prime minister suggested that operational difficulties, which are thought to be at the root of hard patch in the relationship, could be addressed if the needed clarity and strategic coherence was to be achieved.

The intensified “propaganda blitz against Pakistan”, Mr Gilani believed, was because of “confusion and policy disarray within the US establishment on the way forward in Afghanistan”.

The prime minister’s offer of getting past the row through “closer engagement”, however, had a caveat. He said cooperation would be premised on “mutual respect” and that “realities and dynamics of the situation on the ground also need to be objectively factored” while addressing Afghan imbroglio.

Mr Gilani reminded the US about Pakistan’s sacrifices in the war on terror and the counter-terror contributions.

He was responding to comments on Thursday by Admiral Mike Mullen, who said ISI was linked to militant groups who carried out the Sept 13 attack on the US embassy in Kabul.

It was the most serious allegation levelled by Washington against the nuclear-armed South Asian nation since 2001, and the first time it had held Islamabad responsible for an attack against the United States.

Mr Gilani said his country was not responsible for the security of foreign troops inside Afghanistan and it was itself a victim of terrorist attacks launched from Afghan soil.

“While there have been terrorist attacks in Kabul and Wardak, there have also been numerous attacks on Pakistan launched from sanctuaries and safe havens in Nooristan and Kunar in Afghanistan,” he said

“It is as much the responsibility of the Afghan National Army, Nato and ISAF not to allow such cross-border militancy.”

The prime minister stressed the need for joint operations and coordination. At the same time, he said there was concern over the deterioration of the security situation in Afghanistan and called the recent attacks in Kabul “disquieting”.

“We condemn these attacks,” he said.

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