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Pakistan Says U.S. Pressure Must End

Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani speaks during an interview with Reuters at his residence in Islamabad on September 27.

Pakistani
Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani speaks during an interview with
Reuters at his residence in Islamabad on September 27.

Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani has said that the United
States should stop blaming his country for regional instability,
declaring “Pakistan cannot be forced to do more” in the fight against
militants.

His comments came at an emergency meeting of political and military
leaders who gathered in Islamabad to formulate a response to U.S.
allegations that Pakistan’s intelligence service is supporting
insurgents in Afghanistan.

Gilani characterized recent statements by senior U.S. officials as
“altogether against the sacrifices and success achieved by Pakistan to
fight terrorism and extremism.”

“Pakistan cannot be forced to do more. Our national interests should be
respected at all costs. Our doors are open for talks,” he said.

America’s top military officer, U.S. Admiral Mike Mullen, said last
week that Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence, or ISI, was supporting
the Haqqani terrorist network — one of the most lethal Taliban-allied
Afghan groups fighting Western forces in Afghanistan.

Mullen told a meeting of the Senate Armed Services Committee on
September 22,  “The Haqqani network, for one, acts as a veritable arm of
Pakistan’s ISI agency.”

He said that with ISI support, Haqqani operatives planned and conducted
bloody attacks in Kabul this month, including a siege on the U.S.
Embassy.

The stunning claim sent already poor relations between Islamabad and
Washington plummeting and triggered a nationalist, anti-American
backlash across Pakistan, which has denied the allegations.

The angry reaction has even united feuding political leaders. Some 65
heads of both major and minor political parties were expected at today’s
All Parties Conference.

Senior military and intelligence figures were also planning to attend.
The country’s intelligence chief, Lieutenant General Ahmed Shuja Pasha,
was scheduled to address the gathering, which was closed to the media,
apart from Gilani’s opening remarks.

In those remarks, he expressed faith that the country’s various
factions would collectively oppose any efforts by the United States to
move against it.

“I am confident that Pakistan’s political leadership and masses are
once again determined to safeguard the geographical borders, freedom,
and sovereignty of their motherland,” he said.

U.S. officials have long talked with Islamabad about links between
Pakistan and the militant Haqqani network, which is behind much of the
violence in Afghanistan. But the discussions have been mostly held in
private, in the belief that Pakistan could gradually be persuaded to cut
its purported ties with the group.

Mullen’s remarks were followed this week by U.S. Senator Lindsay
Graham’s (Republican-South Carolina) claims that support is growing in
Congress for expanding U.S. military action in Pakistan beyond drone
strikes.

The White House has also signaled that its patience may be coming to an end.

At a press briefing on September 28, presidential spokesman Jay Carney
said, “The continuing safe havens that the Haqqani network enjoys in
Pakistan and the links between the Pakistani military and the Haqqani
network are troubling, and we want action taken against them.”

U.S. officials are said to be close to deciding whether to designate
the Haqqani network a foreign terrorist organization, and today
Washington appeared to take a step closer to that move.

The U.S. Treasury Department announced new sanctions on five people it
said have links to “the most dangerous terrorist organizations operating
in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

In a statement, Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial
Intelligence David Cohen said, “These financiers and facilitators
provide the fuel for the Taliban, Haqqani Network, and Al-Qaeda to
realize their violent aspirations.”

The sanctions prohibit U.S. companies and individuals from doing
business with the targeted individuals and freezes any assets they may
hold under U.S. jurisdiction.

written by Heather Maher, with agency reports and material from RFE/RL’s Radio Mashaal

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