`US linking ISI with Haqqani network unfortunate`

Mullen said the Taliban faction was a "veritable arm" of Pakistan’s spy agency.

Islamabad: The war of words between Pakistan
and the US on the ISI’s alleged links with the Haqqani terror
network escalated today with Pakistan Army chief Gen Ashfaq
Parvez Kayani describing US military chief Admiral Mike
Mullen`s accusations as "not based on facts".

In a statement issued by the military this evening, the
powerful army chief described Mullen`s remarks as "as very
unfortunate and not based on facts".

He added: "This is especially disturbing in view of a
rather constructive meeting with Admiral Mullen in Spain."

The Pakistani military had maintained a studied silence
as several US officials linked the Inter-Services Intelligence
agency to the Haqqani terror network and called on Islamabad
to take action against the Taliban faction based in the North
Waziristan tribal region.

Kayani responded a day after Mullen accused the ISI of
supporting the Haqqani network in carrying out a string of
deadly terror attacks, including an assault on the US Embassy
in Kabul on September 13.

Mullen said the Taliban faction was a "veritable arm" of
Pakistan’s spy agency.

The Pakistani military statement said: "On the specific
question of contacts with the Haqqanis, (Kayani) said that
Admiral Mullen knows fully well which all countries are in
contact with the Haqqanis. Singling out Pakistan is neither
fair nor productive."

The statement did not name the other countries that are
in contact with the Haqqani network.

Kayani categorically denied US accusations of "proxy war
and ISI support to Haqqanis" and said the "blame game in
public statements should give way to a constructive and
meaningful engagement for a stable and peaceful Afghanistan,
an objective to which Pakistan is fully committed".

The Pakistani military`s response came hours after
Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said in New York that the
US risked losing its partnership with Pakistan if it continued
criticising Islamabad for the alleged link between the ISI and
the Haqqani network.

"We have a strong stand and...we have conveyed to the US
that you will lose an ally. You cannot afford to alienate
Pakistan, you cannot afford to alienate the Pakistani people.

If you are choosing to do so, and if they are choosing to do
so, it will be at their (United States`) own cost," Khar said.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani too spoke on the issue
but adopted a more conciliatory tone.

He told reporters in Karachi that the Obama
administration should increase contacts with Islamabad to
remove "misunderstandings" related to the war on terrorism if
the US wished to retain Pakistan as a strategic ally.
Gilani said the message emanating from the US
administration seemed to be "they can`t live with us, they
can`t live without us".

He added: "So, I will say to them that when they can`t
live without us, they should increase contacts to end
misunderstandings with us."

Mullen`s accusations and the response of Pakistani
leaders marked a sharp escalation in the war of words between
the troubled allies in the war on terror.

The relationship between the two countries has been
bumpy since the beginning of this year, when a CIA contractor
was arrested in Lahore for gunning down two men linked to the

The ties plunged to a new low after the covert US raid
that killed Osama bin Laden in the Pakistani garrison city of
Abbottabad on May 2.

Since then, the US has stepped up pressure on Pakistan to
act against the Haqqani network, which is based in the North
Waziristan tribal region.


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