(Photo: Reuters / Mian Khursheed)
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – As U.S. Senator John Kerry warned Pakistan on Sunday it could risk losing U.S. aid in case Islamabad failed to cooperate more with Washington in curbing terrorism, Islamabad has also finalized its list of conditions to be forwarded to Washington with a clear message that their acceptance was a major prerequisite for the continuation of the anti-terrorism cooperation between the two estranged allies.
The list contains tough conditions like an end to drone strikes in Pakistan’s militant-infested Tribal Areas, withdrawal of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) spies and defense contractors from Pakistan and complete intelligence sharing by Washington about the possible presence of al-Qaida and Taliban leaders inside the country.
The Pakistani list of conditions will not only be sent to Washington through diplomatic channels, but will also be shared with Senator Kerry, who arrived in Islamabad from Kabul on Sunday night to hold crucial talks with Pakistani leaders.
Kerry is the first senior U.S. official to visit Pakistan after Osama bin Laden’s killing in a Navy SEALs raid in Abbottabad on May 2, following which relations between Islamabad and Washington reached new lows and putting a halt to bilateral cooperation between the two countries.
“The U.S. authorities will have to assure Pakistan that they will not carry out military action here on their own in the future. We will not allow their boots on our ground and this will be made clear to them,” said a Pakistani official requesting anonymity.
He said Pakistan wanted an end to the drone strikes and the withdrawal of all American spies and defense contractors at the earliest possible date.
A Pakistani security official said, “Another important condition for resuming cooperation is the formalization of the agreement between the CIA and ISI to carry forward the alliance, as stated by Pakistan’s intelligence chief, Lt. Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha in parliament.”
He said Pakistani leaders would tell Kerry that the U.S. was required to trust Pakistan, which had given more sacrifices than any other state in the global fight against terrorism.
“Senator Kerry will be told that the Americans would share whatever information they have on al-Qaida and Taliban leaders’ whereabouts in Pakistan, and our security organizations would have no problem in carrying out action against them, just the way they have done in the past,” the official said.
Prior to Senator Kerry’s visit to Pakistan, some media reports from Washington suggested that the U.S. was likely to seek Pakistan’s help in an investigation into a prayer leader at a Florida mosque and his two sons, arrested in the U.S. on Saturday on charges of financing the Pakistani Taliban.
Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokeswoman, Tehmina Janjua, rejected reports that Pakistan-U.S. anti-terrorism cooperation had come to a halt. She said Pakistan had been constantly cooperating with the U.S. to counter terrorism, according to a press statement.
Meanwhile, in his meeting with Pakistan’s army chief, General Ashfaq Pervaiz Kayani, soon after reaching here from Kabul, Kerry demanded more cooperation from Islamabad in curbing terrorism.
An official privy to the meeting said, “Senator Kerry was already expected to talk tough in Pakistan. He warned that Pakistan could lose the U.S. assistance if it failed to increase the level of cooperation with Washington in fighting terrorism.”
He said Kayani told the U.S. senator that Pakistan had been at the forefront in the anti-terrorism global campaign and the international community, including Washington, must acknowledge its sacrifices.
“General Kayani reiterated Pakistan’s concerns over the covert U.S. operation in Abbottabad. He also made it clear that no such action would be tolerated in the future,” the official said, adding that the army chief also handed over a copy of the joint resolution passed by the Pakistani parliament on Friday, which asked for a review of relations with the U.S.
Kerry is scheduled to meet President Asif Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on Monday.
In a related development, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton telephoned President Zardari Sunday night and discussed the situation arising out of the raid on bin Laden in Abbottabad, an official statement stated.
However, as opposed to Kerry, Clinton opted for a reconciliatory tone during her conversation with Zardari. The president apprised her of the concerns expressed by Pakistan’s parliament over the operation and “both agreed to resolve the issues amicably and move forward.”
Before leaving for Islamabad, Kerry told a press conference in Kabul that Pakistan would face "profound" changes in its relationship with the U.S. unless it recognized that the dynamics had fundamentally changed in the two weeks since U.S. forces killed bin Laden.
“There are disturbing signs that the Pakistani government knows about insurgents crossing from their country into Afghanistan,” he said, adding that the relationship between Washington and Islamabad had reached a “critical moment.”
"It is fair to say that some of my colleagues in the House and Senate have deep reservations as to whether or not Pakistan is committed to the same goals or prepared to be a full partner in pursuing those goals," he said.
Kerry said if there is no "improvement in the current situation" it will become increasingly difficult to convince people at home of the need to give aid to Pakistan.
"This is not a moment for anything but very sober serious discussion with an understanding that there is a lot at stake. There is no other way to put it. I think they understand that, we understand that," he said.
Before Kerry’s meeting with Kayani, President Zardari, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and the army chief held a detailed discussion at the Presidency earlier in the day on the strained relations with the U.S. and Pakistan’s agenda for talks with the U.S. senator.
An official said the three leaders decided to opt for a hard stance. “Pakistan has prepared its case for Senator Kerry. It’s a very important visit, we know how much important Senator Kerry is in Washington and also that he has always been sympathetic to the Pakistan’s cause,” he said.
He said the meeting of top Pakistani leaders also noted that Pakistan wanted improvement in ties with the U.S. but not at the cost of its honor and dignity.