The U.S. on Saturday accused Pakistan Government of having links with the Haqqani network, which Washington holds responsible for last week’s attack on the American Embassy in Kabul. Though the U.S. has long been asking Pakistan to go after the Haqqani network, this direct charge was leveled against the Pakistan Government by Washington's Ambassador in Islamabad, Cameron Munter, in an interview to Radio Pakistan.
But even as Washington is using the Kabul attack to mount pressure on Islamabad to act against the Haqqani network - believed to be in North Waziristan along the Durand Line - the group's leader Sirajuddin Haqqani on Saturday told Reuters that it no longer had sanctuaries in Pakistan and had moved back to Afghanistan where it felt secure.
Mr. Munter minced no words despite Islamabad on Thursday protesting the more nuanced remarks on the same lines by U. S. Defence Secretary Leon Panetta after the Kabul attack. Reacting to his threat of unilateral action against the Haqqani network - also held responsible for the attack on the Indian Embassy in Kabul -- the Pakistan Foreign Office reminded Washington that its cooperation on terror-related issues was premised on respect for the country's sovereignty and entails joint actions.
In what is yet another round of public sparring after a few weeks of lull, Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani threw the ‘do more’ phrase back at the U.S. over the weekend; stating that Pakistan had done a lot in the fight against terrorism and now it was time the U.S. made similar sacrifices. Elsewhere in Spain, at the NATO Chiefs of Defence meeting, Chief of Army Staff Ashfaq Parvez Kayani underlined Pakistan's sovereign right to formulate policy in accordance with its national interest.
The Haqqani claim of having returned to Afghanistan is in line with the Pakistani strategic establishment’s contention that there were terrorist havens west of the Durand Line from where repeated attacks were being launched on its border posts; the latest being on Sunday evening in Lower Dir. Islamabad has time and again held NATO and Afghanistan responsible for these attacks; stating that negligible security on the Afghan side of the border with Pakistan allowed terrorists to use these areas as safe havens and mount attacks on Pakistani forces and isolated villages along the border.
While confirming that the group had been hiding in Pakistan, Sirajuddin Haqqani in his rare interview said: “Gone are the days when we were hiding in the mountains along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Now we consider ourselves more secure in Afghanistan besides the Afghan people. Senior military and police officials are with us. There are sincere people in the Afghan government who are loyal to the Taliban as they know our goal is the liberation of our homeland from the clutches of the occupying forces.”