More than a week after a unilateral American raid killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, premier Yousuf Raza Gilani on Thursday placed the blame, for the widening trust deficit in bilateral ties, squarely on the US and warned that continuing to work with that country could imperil his government.
Admitting that cooperation between spy agencies of the two countries had broken down and they differed on how to fight terrorism, he said the Americans should have conducted a joint operation with Pakistan to nab the al Qaeda chief, rather than carry out a covert operation.
Gilani contended that his government was accountable to the Pakistani people, who were increasingly hostile to the US.
"I am not an army dictator, I'm a public figure...If public opinion is against you (referring to his US allies) then I cannot risk it to stand with you. I have to go with public opinion," he said in an interview to Time magazine, his first since the US raid that killed bin Laden in the garrison city of Abbottabad on May 2.
Gilani put the onus on Washington to gain the support of Pakistani citizens, while saying that continuing to work with the US could imperil his government.
"They should do something for the public which will persuade them that the US is supportive of Pakistan," he said.
As an example, he cited the 2008 US-India civil nuclear agreement. "It's our public that's dying, but the deal is happening there," he said. "You claim there's a strategic partnership? That we're best friends?"
To support his contention, Gilani quoted a verse from Urdu poet Mirza Ghalib. "When we passed each other, she didn't deign to even say hello. How, then, can I believe that our parting caused her any tears?"
Despite criticism from the US, about alleged Pakistani duplicity over the fact that bin Laden had been hiding in Abbottabad near Islamabad, Gilani claimed the role of "aggrieved party in a deteriorating relationship" and complained repeatedly about the widening "trust deficit" with the US.
Asked about the reason for the trust deficit, Gilani replied tersely, "It's not from our side. Ask them (the US)."
He also acknowledged that cooperation between the CIA and the ISI had broken down. "Traditionally, the ISI worked with the CIA," he said.
Now, "what we're seeing is that there's no level of trust", he added.
Referring to his country's alliance with the US on the war on terror, Gilani said the Americans should have conducted a joint operation with Pakistan to get bin Laden.
"Naturally, we wondered why they went unilaterally. If we're fighting a war together, we have to work together. Even if there was credible and actionable information, then we should have done it jointly," he said.