Pakistan’s Prime Minister expressed concern on Wednesday over U.S. plans to suspend around $800 million in military aid to his country, saying it could damage Pakistan’s fight against Islamist militants and further endanger the world.
Yousuf Raza Gilani’s comments suggest Pakistan’s civilian leaders are, at least publicly, more wary of the cuts than the Pakistani Army, which operates largely beyond civilian control and has downplayed the aid issue. They also came as Pakistan’s spy chief headed to Washington for meetings on Wednesday and a top U.S. military commander visited Pakistan.
The U.S.-Pakistan relationship has been on a downward spiral since the May 2 U.S. raid that killed al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in a Pakistani garrison town. Pakistani leaders have protested the unilateral raid by kicking out many American military trainers and asking the U.S. to reduce its footprint in the country.
On Sunday, President Barack Obama’s chief of staff, William Daley, said the U.S. was suspending more than one-third — or $800 million — of its military aid to Pakistan until the two countries can resolve their differences enough to work together.
The Pakistani Army has said it has no intention of stopping its fight against insurgents who have attacked the Pakistani state, and that it will continue to do so with its own resources. The statements have appeared designed to deflect notions that the Pakistani military is too reliant on American aid.
Mr. Gilani, however, said he was worried about the U.S. decision.
“We are concerned over this issue of aid because we are in the middle of the war against terrorism and extremism,” the premier said during a televised news conference in the southwestern city of Quetta. “Though this is our own war, we are fighting the war for the entire world, for the peace and prosperity and progress of the whole world.”
Earlier Wednesday, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the head of Pakistan’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence, headed for talks in Washington, Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas confirmed.
U.S. Central Command Commander Gen. James Mattis visited Pakistan and met with senior military officials, including army chief. Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the U.S. Embassy said in a statement on Wednesday. Gen. Mattis is the top U.S. commander for the region that includes Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Middle East.
The two visits could provide an opportunity for both sides to improve ties.
Pakistani leaders insist they had no idea that bin Laden was hiding in the northwest town of Abbottabad, and U.S. leaders have said that to date they’ve seen no evidence that the top echelon of Pakistan’s civilian and military leadership knew the terror chief’s whereabouts.
But suspicions have lingered that rogue elements of Pakistan’s security establishment, which historically has had connections with various militant groups, helped hide bin Laden.