Monday, November 30, 2009

‘Al-Qaeda, Taliban leaders not in Pakistan’

ISLAMABAD: Strongly reacting to some of the reports of the presence of al-Qaeda and Taliban leadership in Pakistan by the US newspapers and some intelligence agencies, President Asif Ali Zardari on Friday said that Pakistan was seriously cooperating with the international community in the war against terrorism and the sacrifices rendered by it were unassailable.

The president expressed these views during his meeting with CIA Director Leon Panetta at the Presidency here. The CIA chief arrived in Pakistan on Thursday on a two-day unannounced visit.

Sources said President Zardari again made it clear to the US that al-Qaeda and the Taliban leaderships were not present in Pakistan, adding the US leadership must share all kinds of information with Pakistan as it was not “our war” only. He also urged the CIA chief to get US drone attacks in Pakistani tribal areas stopped.

Panetta also met ISI Director-General Lt-Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha separately.According to sources, the ISI director-general said there must be an effective intelligence sharing between the US and Pakistan.

He recorded his strong protest with the CIA director on linking the ISI with the Taliban, terming it fabricated and baseless. He again made it clear that neither Mulla Omer nor any Taliban leadership was in Quetta or Karachi.

Sources said that the CIA chief lauded the efforts of Pakistan in the war against terrorism and said neither high-level leadership of the US nor the CIA on official level had given any statement against the ISI at any forum.

Panetta said the US wanted to enhance its ties with Pakistan, as both countries were cooperating against terrorism.

Our correspondent adds: In his meeting with the CIA chief, held separately at the Prime Minister’s House, Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani asked the United Sates that their new Afghan strategy should not disturb the balance of power in South Asia.

Gilani and Panetta discussed in detail the new US strategy on Afghanistan and its impact on the region. The prime minister underscored that the US policy towards Afghanistan must take into account Pakistan’s concerns relating to the possible surge of the US and the Isaf forces in Afghanistan, which may entail negative implications for Balochistan.

He said it was imperative for the US to remove misgivings, build trust and seek to align the respective strategic concepts of both Pakistan and the US to steadfastly move forward in the strategic partnership between the two countries.

He underlined the need for close coordination between the intelligence agencies of both sides to effectively counter the prevalent misperceptions in the relationship. Panetta assured Prime Minister Gilani that the US was fully conscious of Pakistan’s pivotal role in the war against terrorism and in the restoration of stability in Afghanistan.

“The US considers Pakistan a strategic partner with whom it wants to build a long-term and sustained relationship even beyond the cooperation in countering the militancy and extremism,” the CIA director said.

He agreed with Gilani that operational functioning between the two militaries and intelligence agencies was the need of the hour for eliminating the threat of terrorism.

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