ISI chief Lt. Gen. Shuja Pasha has cancelled a scheduled visit to Britain in protest against Prime Minister David Cameron’s remarks that Pakistan must stop promoting “export of terror,” though President Asif Ali Zardari will go ahead with a planned trip to London next week.
Mr. Pasha was scheduled to travel to Britain with a high-level delegation for talks on anti-terror cooperation in early August but called off his visit in the wake of Mr. Cameron’s warning to Pakistan to sever links with groups that promote the “export of terror” to Afghanistan and India, media reports said on Saturday.
Despite a debate within the Foreign Office on the possibility of Zardari calling off his planned visit to Britain, presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar said the President was going ahead with his four-day trip beginning on August 3.
Mr. Zardari’s engagements in Britain will be held as planned, Mr. Babar said.
Diplomatic sources told PTI the decisions made by the ISI and the presidency reflected divisions between the military and civilian leadership on an appropriate reaction to Mr. Cameron’s stinging remarks, which the British Premier later defended by saying it was “important to speak frankly.”
The Foreign Office and the military were particularly irked that Mr. Cameron made the remarks while in India.
Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit said Pakistan was “saddened” as the remarks were prompted by the disclosure of secret U.S. documents by the WikiLeaks website.
The “malicious campaign” against the ISI cannot “belittle” Pakistan’s achievements in the war against terror, he said.
The powerful Pakistan Army conveyed its displeasure after the ISI chief cancelled his upcoming visit to Britain, Dawn newspaper reported.
However, the President’s decision to go ahead with his visit revealed the division within the government’s ranks as it “struggled... to come up with a unified response” to Mr. Cameron’s “disparaging” remarks, it said.
The leaders of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party “were not just at odds with the military leadership, but also the Foreign Office, led by their party man,” the report said, referring to Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi.
The Pakistan Foreign Office, “which is torn between the political and military cross-currents,” will summon a British High Commission official to protest Cameron’s remarks, the report said.
The Foreign Office had earlier indicated that British High Commissioner Adam Thomson would be summoned to receive a demarche but made a change following “intense pressure from the presidency.”
Despite U.S. National Security Adviser James Jones’ remarks that relations between elements of the ISI and extremist organisations are unacceptable, ISI chief Pasha is expected to go ahead with a visit to Washington soon as part of a series of meetings with his American counterparts.