Gen Kayani Refuses To Meet US Assistant Defence Secretary Peter Lavoy

In a powerful signal of the extent to which bilateral ties have plummeted in recent times, the office of the Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, has politely turned down a request for a meeting by visiting US assistant defence secretary, Peter Lavoy.

“Yes, it is correct that a meeting was requested but the General Headquarters declined. We are not aware if Peter Lavoy was given any reasons,” Pakistani officials told The News. US officials in Washington also confirmed the same.

“There are several reasons for turning down Lavoy. It is to tell the Americans that you cannot be bad-mouthing us day in and day out and then expect a meeting with Pakistan’s most powerful personality. You cannot trash our sovereignty, threaten us, announce intensified drone attacks, kill our soldiers, refuse to apologise when you do the same in Kabul, hold back our money (CSF), threaten to cut off all aid and then pretend that it is business as usual,” is how one official put it.

The News spoke to officials involved in working out the ‘package deal’ with the US and it appears that there are clear instructions that more important than the pricing of the Nato containers is the US apology. “We would be willing to forgo charges in return for assurances on our sovereignty and offer of an apology. It means more than the money, we are more concerned about our dignity and honour. If we get assurances that our sovereignty will not be violated and our dignity will be respected, we will not bother about the money part. Price of containers is not an important issue,” said one official.

He said that Lavoy has been told that without an apology it would not be possible to move forward on opening up the Ground Lines of Communications, (GLOCs). “One cannot predict the outcome of our discussions. The process remains unpredictable. The apology remains the key to preserve our dignity. In the absence of same it has been difficult to move forward,” the official added.

Sources in Washington and Islamabad say that for the time being efforts are underway to ensure that an acceptable apology is delivered one way or the other to Pakistan. “There appears to be a slim chance that an acceptable apology will surface. Neither side is ready to accept the language the interlocutors are working on and time is running out. GHQ has to understand that a ready apology was pushed aside and now too many issues have overtaken the apology. US aid is being threatened to be completely cut off because of Shakeel Afridi’s arrest. One side has to step back and it appears no one is ready to do so,’ explained one diplomat.

The News also learnt Sunday that the establishment is also demanding nothing less than a US apology for the Salala killings and says that the ‘apology’ and not the ‘pricing’ of Nato containers is imperative for Pakistan. “No apology, no package deal,” is the message being sent to Lavoy.

Lavoy is still in town and Sunday evening was to be spent at the US embassy for informal discussions. The government is withholding commenting on the meetings that Lavoy has held so far, except an important one with finance minister Abdul Hafeez Sheikh on Saturday.Not too long ago, Pakistan also asked US ambassador for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman not to come to Pakistan.

Kayani’s office has been quite generous in the past in accomodating visiting dignitaries, especially Americans. In fact there had been criticism that protocol has not been strictly followed and officials of lower ranks also found their way into the COAS’ office.

Less than twenty four hours ago Lavoy’s boss defense secretary Leon Panetta accused Pakistan’s military of giving safe havens to Afghan ‘terrorists’, threatened that the US would, if necessary, take action inside North Waziristan to take out the Haqqani network and publicly declared that the US was at war in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata). “Without getting into the details of what we may or may not do, I think it suffices to say that the United States will do whatever it has to do to protect its forces,” threatened Panetta in a television interview.

As US rhetoric reaches a new high, it is understandable why Lavoy could not partake of a cup of coffee with Kayani.Meanwhile, the Pakistan military’s insistence that the US should apologise for intruding into Pakistan’s airspace on November 26, 2011 and killing and wounding its soldiers, is once again on the top of the agenda of all bilateral discussions.

However, there also appears to be some confusion about how ‘vital’ this US apology has become. For months now, the focus of deliberations has centered around a package deal which included fixing an agreed price for each Nato container passing through Pakistan, Coalition Support Funds payment to Pakistan, iron-clad guarantees that Salala-like attacks will not repeated, all agreements would be put on paper and a US apology would be delivered.

The US apology was not being highlighted until recently when foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar, in an interview in Doha to Foreign Policy magazine, challenged the Obama administration to live up to America’s democratic ideals by respecting the will of Pakistan’s elected legislature. “A representative Parliament of 180 million people has spoken on one subject. [This is] something which should have been forthcoming the day this incident happened, and what a partnership not only demands, but requires,” she said.

14 Pakistani Troops Martyred in Miran Shah

Taliban fighters martyred 14 Pakistani soldiers in a key militant sanctuary along the Afghan border, beheaded all but one of them and hung two of the heads from wooden poles in the center of town, officials said Monday.

The killings in Miran Shah, the main town in the North Waziristan tribal area, highlight the dilemma facing the military in dealing with an area used by both the country’s fiercest enemy, the Pakistani Taliban, and Afghan and Pakistani militants believed to be close to the government who are battling U.S.-led forces in neighboring Afghanistan.

The U.S. has repeatedly demanded that Pakistan launch an offensive in North Waziristan, especially against the so-called Haqqani network. Pakistan has promised to do so in the future, but claims its forces are stretched too thin right now fighting the Pakistani Taliban in other parts of the tribal region.

“Something has to be done, and it’s in the offing,” Lt. Gen. Khalid Rabbani, the army’s top commander in the northwest, told The Associated Press in an interview Monday. “North Waziristan is the only place left” that hasn’t been the target of an operation, he said.

Many analysts believe Pakistan is reluctant to target militants in North Waziristan with whom it has strong historical ties and could be useful allies in Afghanistan after foreign forces withdraw. But those militants are also allies with the Pakistani Taliban, complicating matters even further.

On Sunday, the Taliban ambushed a security checkpoint in Miran Shah, killing nine Pakistani soldiers, the army said. Militants had been firing on the checkpoint for the past few days before they ambushed it, the army added.

When authorities finally retrieved the bodies of the dead soldiers, they found that they had been beheaded, said intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

The army retaliated Sunday with helicopter gunships that pounded suspected militant hideouts and also hit three houses and a mosque in the town, said intelligence officials. Three civilians were killed and 20 were wounded in the helicopter attacks, they said. It’s unclear how many militants were killed.

The military also raided a house in Miran Shah on Sunday night, killing a militant commander and several of his colleagues, said intelligence officials. But the remaining militants escaped with five soldiers captured during the raid.

They beheaded four of them and hung two of their heads from poles in Miran Shah on Monday. The bodies of the others were dumped in Miran Shah bazaar, the officials said.

“This will not shy us off establishing the writ of the government in all the areas, including North Waziristan,” said Rabbani, who commands 150,000 troops in the northwest along the Afghan border.

The army unleashed its helicopter gunships again Monday, attacking a weapons market in Miran Shah where the militants who attacked the security checkpoint were believed to be hiding, said intelligence officials. The attack killed some 30 militants and destroyed dozens of shops that sold assault rifles, ammunition and rocket propelled grenades, the officials said.

Since the fighting started Sunday, 20 Pakistani troops have been injured, said the officials.

The attack on the weapons market occurred after the army had declared a curfew, so there did not appear to be any civilian casualties within the bazaar, said Haji Zafran, one of the shop owners. But a dozen people were wounded when a mosque near the market was hit, he said.

The market burned for hours after the attack, and the area reverberated with loud bangs as the flames set off the ammunition and grenades in the shops, said Zafran.

The owner of the market, Haji Noor Deen, protested the army’s attack and claimed he and the other arms dealers suffered a loss of millions of dollars.

“Our place was targeted for no reason, as nobody fired a shot from there at the army,” said Deen. “The dealers just sell arms to tribesmen.”

The army lifted the curfew so that tribal elders and militants could hold a meeting to try to resolve the conflict, said intelligence officials. The jirga included members of the Haqqani network, an Afghan group, and also Hafiz Gul Bahadur, a powerful Pakistani militant commander believed to be close to Pakistan, they said.

 

Pakistan Rejects US Demand for NWA Military Operation

Islamabad: Pakistan has firmly turned down renewed US demands for a full-scale military operation in North Waziristan Agency (NWA) against the Haqqani network allegedly based there, and blamed by Washington for recent coordinated attacks in Kabul and other parts of Afghanistan.
The Obama administration resumed pressure on Islamabad for military action in North Waziristan. The demand was first made by US Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter during his meeting with Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar which took place after the Kabul attacks, followed by a telephone call from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to her Pakistani counterpart. Besides, official sources say that the US also conveyed the demand to the Pakistan Army leadership through military channels. However, Pakistan has once again refused to budge to US pressure for launching a military offensive in North Waziristan, where the Obama administration believes that senior Taliban leader Siraj Haqqani is hiding, along with his fighters.
US Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan C Crocker also blamed the Haqqani network on Thursday for conducting coordinated attacks in Kabul and other cities. Talking to reporters in Kabul, he demanded Pakistan to crack down on what he called “Haqqani safe havens” in Pakistan. “There is no question in our minds that the Haqqanis were responsible for these attacks. We know where their leadership lives and we know where these plans are made in Pakistan,” he said. A Pakistani diplomat seeking anonymity, however, rejected US allegations, saying that everything that happens in Kabul is not planned in Pakistan’s tribal belt.
“There might be Taliban fighters present in North Waziristan and other tribal areas, but blaming those people for every bad thing that happens in Afghanistan seems to have become the Americans’ habit now,” he said, while ruling out the possibility of a new military offensive in North Waziristan. A security official, who also sought anonymity, confirmed that the US was exerting increasing pressure on Pakistan for a new military offensive. However, he too rejected the likelihood of any such offensive, saying that would put too much burden on Pakistani security forces already overstretched due to ongoing operations in areas such Khyber and Orakzai agencies.

via Pakistan Today