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APC underway over tense relations with US

September 29, 2011

The conference is discussing the situation arising out of serious allegations levelled by US officials against Pakistan’s armed forces and the ISI.—File photo

ISLAMABAD: An All-Party Conference (APC) convened by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani began in the capital city on Thursday to discuss the situation arising out of serious allegations levelled by US officials against Pakistan’s armed forces and its intelligence agency, the ISI.

At the start of the conference which was being attended by several political leaders, Prime Minister Gilani addressed the gathering and said that Pakistan rejected US allegations and that the pressure of "do more" should not longer be applied on Pakistan.

“American statements shocked us, and negate our sacrifices and successes in the ongoing war against terror,” he told the conference.

“Pakistan cannot be pressurised to do more,” Prime Minister Gilani said. “Our doors are open for dialogue (with the international community),” he added.

He further said that Pakistan has never deviated from its international obligations.

The conference was briefed by Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and would also be briefed by security officials and certain other cabinet ministers.

The nation has pinned great hopes on leaders representing all shades of opinion to evolve a framework for the country’s foreign and security policies and to set direction for its progress on genuinely independent lines.

The top military leadership invited to the conference may face some tough questions, especially from the PML-N chief, Mian Nawaz Sharif, and leaders of nationalist and religious parties about what is considered to be ambiguous relationship with the West, particularly the United States, and military’s engagement on western borders.

The conference has a one-point agenda — national security in the aftermath of security challenges emerging from outside the country.

Because of US allegations that the ISI is hand in glove with the Haqqani network, the two countries are facing a tough challenge to keep their alliance intact in the so-called war against terrorism.

Chief of Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Gen Khalid Shameem Wynne are also attending the conference while ISI Director General Lt-Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha is expected to make a detailed presentation on national security concerns besetting the country vis-à-vis US interests in Afghanistan.

Retired general turned political analyst Talat Masood told a news agency that the government and the military want to defuse the latest crisis.

“The gathering is intended to send a strong signal from the country’s political parties that they stand united behind the military in the wake of US pressures,” he said.

“The government wants to release pressure… although everybody knows that it is the military that will decide what type of relationship it wants with the United States.

“The conference will serve as political catharsis to let passions cool off.”