As the political and military leadership converged in the capital on Thursday to formulate a response to U.S. allegations and demands, Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani said “Pakistan cannot be pressured to do more''.
At the all parties conference (APC) convened in the wake of allegations regarding institutional links with terrorism and demands for action against the Haqqani network, Mr. Gilani rejected the charges saying they were in “sharp variance with Pakistan's numerous sacrifices and achievements in the struggle against terror and militancy''.
Of the view that blame-game is counter-productive, the Prime Minister said Pakistan's red lines and national interests must be respected. “Any perceptional differences and issues should best be resolved through a constructive dialogue. The only reasonable basis for conducting inter-state relations is to adhere to principles of sovereign equality, mutual interest and mutual respect.''
Though the Pakistan Muslim league (Nawaz) had made clear its intent to pose tough questions to the civil and military establishment, he sought to set the agenda for the meeting by asking participants to set aside their political differences.
Reiterating pride in the armed forces and expressing full confidence in their capabilities for ensuring national defence — just the way the political leadership had done during the joint session of Parliament after the Abbottabad operation — he said: “I request that we focus today on the challenge to our country, so that the nation and the world can see that we stand united in safeguarding Pakistan's sovereignty, territorial integrity, national dignity and honour.''
His appeal notwithstanding, the former Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, is said to have asked ISI Director General Shuja Pasha if all the allegations levelled by the U.S. could be baseless. Ahead of the meeting, cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan said Pakistan should tell the U.S. in unequivocal terms that since the military option had failed to bear fruit in Afghanistan and Pakistan, that route should be abandoned for dialogue.
While the marathon meeting is expected to go on into the night as attempts are also on to thrash out a resolution acceptable to all, the Prime Minister's initiative has drawn some flak from diehard democrats who aver that Parliament should have been called instead. Opinion on the APC is divided with supporters welcoming it as a forum for factoring in all shades of opinion while the naysayers claim it has allowed several right wing organisations without representation in Parliament to have a say in evolving a national response that needs to be thought through rationally and not emotionally.