Pakistan will not take military action against the Haqqani network despite growing US 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 Saturday.
The commanders vowed to resist US demands for an offensive against the Haqqanis in North Waziristan but also discussed possible implications of unilateral action by the US 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 US that Pakistan cannot go beyond what it has already done," the military official
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 US
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 US 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 US 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.
Kayani rejected the accusation as "not based on facts". Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani yesterday asked Foreign
Minister Hina Rabbani Khar to cut short her visit to the US 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 US strikes in North Waziristan, Abbas said that any such action would fuel
anti-US sentiments in Pakistan.
It "would have grave consequences…and would put the government and the military's backs to the wall," he said. In yet another take on the situation, The News daily reported that Pakistan's top military commanders had "resolved to respond materially and effectively to any attack launched on Pakistan" from Afghanistan.
The commanders "rubbished recent US allegations accusing the Inter-Services Intelligence of having links with the
Haqqani network", the report said.
The News quoted an unnamed official as saying that the US "wants Pakistan to launch an operation in North Waziristan
where the militants' hideouts and structures are allegedly so huge and heavy that any misadventure would bounce back with its heavy fallout on Pakistani public in major cities".
"Pakistan would certainly take action but nobody should push Pakistan to plunge into troubled spots. We would take action on our own, choosing the right time to do so," another official told the daily.
Several Pakistani officials and leaders viewed the US allegations as a ploy to launch an attack inside Pakistan like
the one in Iraq, the report said.
Shortly after yesterday's Corps Commanders' meet, Gen Kayani left for Britain to address the International Institute
for Strategic Studies and the Royal College of Defence Studies.