No More ‘Yes Boss,’ Says Pakistani PM, As Rift With U.S. Deepens
(CNSNews.com) – The days of saying “Yes, boss” to the United States are over, Pakistan Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani said at the weekend, in a further sign of the deepening rift between the two countries.
Confirmation Sunday that the Obama administration has suspended $800 million in aid to the Pakistani military came just days after Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen alleged that Pakistani security officials “sanctioned” the recent murder of a Pakistani journalist investigating jihadist infiltration of the military.
Mullen’s remark drew an angry denial from Islamabad, which earlier set up a commission of inquiry into Saleem Shahzad’s death.
Adding to the chill, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in Kabul on Saturday that the U.S. wanted to see Pakistani forces go after al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in the tribal areas adjacent to the border with Afghanistan. The military responded coolly, saying that it expects U.S. intelligence “to share available information and actionable intelligence regarding al-Zawahiri.”
“The Pakistan army is already carrying out intense operations against al-Qaeda and its affiliates, who are a threat to security of our country and people,” it said in a curt statement.
Pakistani military and government officials for years also insisted that al-Qaeda head Osama bin Laden was not in the country, inviting anyone with information to the contrary to pass it along. The fugitive terrorist was found last May in a compound near Pakistan’s foremost military academy, where he had apparently been living for five years.
Gilani’s comments on Saturday came during a meeting with the governing body of the Lahore Press Club.
“The government is guarding supreme national interests in having diplomatic relations with other countries, including the U.S.,” the prime minister was quoted as saying.
“Nobody should expect from us to say ‘Yes boss’ to America, and bow to any foreign pressure, since we will not go against Pakistan’s interests,” he added.
The Lahore-based daily The Nation welcomed Gilani’s words.
“It is heartening to note that at last both the political and military leaderships have learned their lesson and come out forcefully against the U.S. as well as its media for waging a psychological war against Pakistan,” it said in an editorial Monday.
“The nation has for long been expecting our ruling leadership to make such bold statements to silence American and Western critics, and it was, indeed, a source of great satisfaction that finally Mr. Gilani rebuffed them.”
The paper claimed that a U.S. media campaign of “vilification” was underway. It predicted that more U.S. disapproval lay ahead, “now that Pakistan’s persistent critic Leon Panetta has moved from the post of CIA Director to that of Defense Secretary.”
Panetta is viewed with suspicion by some in Pakistan, given a series of recent incidents involving the agency – the bin Laden raid which took place with Pakistan’s foreknowledge or approval, the escalation of drone-launched missile attacks targeting terrorists along the Pakistan-Afghan border, and the arrest and subsequent release of a CIA contractor who shot dead two Pakistanis last January.
White House chief of staff William Daley on Sunday confirmed a New York Times report about the cutting of $800 million in aid to the Pakistani military.
Speaking on ABC’s “This Week,” he linked the move to “difficulties” in the relationship which he attributed in part to Islamabad’s unhappiness about the bin Laden killing.
“Obviously there’s still a lot of pain that the political system in Pakistan is feeling by virtue of the raid that we did to get Osama bin Laden,” Daley said.
“The Pakistani relationship is difficult, but it must be made to work over time,” he said. “But until we get through these difficulties, we’ll hold back some of the money that the American taxpayers have committed to give.”