Meng Jianzhu, the Vice Premier of the Peoples Republic of China called on General Khalid Shameem Wynne, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee. - APP Photo

ISLAMABAD: As Islamabad and Washington continued discussions on Monday over latest round of crisis in their troubled relations spurred by allegations linking ISI to the Haqqani network, Pakistan opened consultations with some of its close allies over the tense situation.

The highlight of a series of meetings in Islamabad was a meeting between Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir and US Ambassador Cameron Munter.

The meeting took place shortly after Mr Munter had returned to Islamabad from Washington. It is understood that the meeting was a follow-up of the discussions Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and Foreign Secretary Bashir had with American officials in New York for resuscitating the troubled ties.

Retiring US Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff had accused the ISI of being complicit with the Haqqani network in the Sept 13 attack in Kabul near the US Embassy and a bomb attack that wounded 77 American soldiers.

The charges, the most serious yet levelled by the US against Pakistan, were categorically rejected both by civilian and military leadership of the country.

At the Sunday’s extraordinary conference of corps commanders, the army clearly hinted that it would want the situation to be defused. Nevertheless, it desires to stand firm on its stance and insists on respect for the red lines.

In a clear indication that the situation is still critical, Army Chief Gen Kayani cancelled at the eleventh hour his scheduled trip to the UK where he was to address the International Institute for Strategic Studies and the Royal College of Defence Studies and meet British Defence Minister Liam Fox.

No reasons were officially given for the cancellation of the visit, but a security official said it was related to heightened tensions with the US.

Meanwhile, Vice Premier of China Meng Jianzhu in a meeting with Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Khalid Shameem Wynne discussed “the emerging geo-strategic situation of the region”.

The Chinese leader was quoted by the ISPR as having praised “the role played by the armed forces of Pakistan in the fight against terror”.

The issue also came up during Mr Jianzhu’s meeting with President Asif Ali Zardari.

Salim Saifullah Khan, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told Reuters that he and other officials held talks with diplomats to explain Pakistan’s stand as the United States pushes the Pakistani army to go after the Haqqani network.

“We have been meeting with diplomats with the purpose to convey Pakistan’s point of view, and also that they should make the United States understand that we have sacrificed so much,” he said without naming the countries with which the discussions had taken place.

President Zardari, who made a rare appearance at a reception hosted by the Saudi Embassy to celebrate the Kingdom’s national day, spoke about Saudi support for Pakistan at critical junctures.

“Every difficult moment in our history has witnessed us standing together in mutual support and solidarity,” Mr Zardari was quoted in a statement issued by the presidency.

The media remained full of speculations about Saudi intervention in the dispute over the Haqqani network.

A team of Saudi counter-terrorism and security officials that reached Islamabad for participating in joint military exercises was mistaken as a group of intelligence officials that had flown in to talk with ISI chief Lt Gen Shuja Pasha on American allegations.

In a later twist it was said that Gen Pasha, following a Saudi message, dashed to Riyadh for continuing the talks. However, military spokesman Maj Gen Ather Abbas rejected the reports and said that Gen Pasha was in Islamabad and the visiting Saudi team was here for military exercises.

AFP adds: Pakistan will not launch an offensive against the Haqqani network despite Washington ramping up the pressure, an official said on Monday.

“I don’t think the indicators are as such,” a senior Pakistani security official told AFP when asked if the army was going to launch an operation in North Waziristan.

Instead, he said, the military needs to “consolidate gains” made against local militants who pose a security threat elsewhere in the tribal region.

The official said that troops were too busy countering cross-border attacks from Afghanistan and local Pakistani militants in other parts of the tribal belt to take on the Haqqanis. “These are kind of more pressing issues that we have to tackle. We have to consolidate the gains in Mohmand and in other tribal and north-western regions after a series of operations in these areas,” he said.

“As for North Waziristan, the army has at least five brigades there, which is enough to take care of the situation. There is a complete tribal structure in the region to help security forces deal with the militants and outlaws.”

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