Pakistan will not take military action against the Haqqani network despite growing U.S. pressure, even as the country’s top military commanders have agreed on the need to de-escalate the situation, according to media reports on Monday.
These decisions were made at a special meeting of the Corps Commanders chaired by Pakistan Army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani on Sunday.
The commanders vowed to resist U.S. demands for an offensive against the Haqqanis in North Waziristan but also discussed possible implications of unilateral action by the U.S. on Pakistani territory, a military official was quoted as saying by The Express Tribune.
The decision is “likely to chip away at the deteriorating relationship between the two countries”, the report said.
“We have already conveyed to the U.S. that Pakistan cannot go beyond what it has already done,” the military official said.
However, the Dawn newspaper quoted its sources as saying that the meeting of the Corps Commanders, probably the first held on a Sunday, had agreed on the need to de-escalate the situation.
The meeting held on a holiday “reflected the seriousness of the crisis” created by a series of allegations by U.S. officials and a source told the daily that de-escalation efforts were afoot.
“Escalation is harmful. In the cost-benefit analysis, there appears to be no benefit of a confrontation,” the source said. The Dawn too reported that “there was nothing to suggest that the army had agreed to act against the Haqqani network under U.S. pressure”.
There was no official word from the military on deliberations at yesterday’s six-hour meeting.
Before the meeting got underway, a brief statement had said Gen. Kayani had called a special meeting to “discuss the prevailing security situation”.
Tensions between the two sides have spiked since U.S. military chief Adm Mike Mullen alleged last week that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency had backed the Haqqani network in carrying out several attacks in Afghanistan.
Gen. Kayani rejected the accusation as “not based on facts”.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Sunday asked Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar to cut short her visit to the U.S. and to return to Pakistan to participate in a meeting of the top political leadership that will assess the tensions between the two sides.
At the same time, the Pakistan Army publicly acknowledged its contacts with the Haqqani network, apparently confirming that the security establishment has no intention to go after one of the most feared Taliban factions.
“Any intelligence agency would like to maintain contact with whatever opposition group, whatever terrorist organisation...for some positive outcome,” chief military spokesman Maj Gen Athar Abbas told CNN.
Such contacts do not mean the ISI supports or endorses the organisation, he said.
“If someone is blaming us (as) the only country maintaining contacts with the Haqqanis, there are others, too,” he said.
Responding to the possibility of unilateral U.S. strikes in North Waziristan, Gen. Abbas said that any such action would fuel anti-U.S. sentiments in Pakistan.