Friday, February 10

Madame Ambassador, regimes that live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones

February 10, The News Tribe (Pakistan):
Washington: Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States Sherry Rehman has conveyed the reservations of Pakistan to the US administration on the US Congress Comittee debate on Balochistan was tantamount to helping terrorists operating in the province.
Ambassador Rehman, in her meetings with the congressmen and senior officials of the US administration, said that the Congress hearing was marked by a blatant disregard for history and inflammatory use of selective facts.

“It is deeply regrettable that the legislature of a country that calls itself a friend of Pakistan should allow itself to be used as a platform by those advocating the dismemberment of Pakistan and provide justification to terrorists attempting to hold Balochistan, and Pakistan, hostage,” she said.

The subcommittee on oversights and investigations of the House Foreign Affairs Committee had held the hearing on 8th February with testimonies from human rights organizations and policy analysts on the human rights violations and target-killings in Balochistan.

”Pakistan views this hearing with serious concern and considers it unacceptable in no uncertain terms,” she stated adding that this kind of an exercise constituted interference in Pakistan’s internal affairs. The hearing, she observed, would be detrimental to building mutual trust and confidence and “will add to suspicions in Pakistan about the American motives in the region and concerning Pakistan.”
She was just getting warmed up; News Tribe has her full statement. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the ISI is under judicial fire in Pakistan for the first time in its existence. Does this mean the spy agency is indeed Gen. Kayani's sacrificial goat? We'll find out soon enough.

Meanwhile, back at the indoor putting green, the White House announced yesterday that President Obama and his national security team had undertaken a review of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship. From (Pakistan's) Dawn, dateline today:
WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama has reviewed efforts to improve ties with Pakistan with his national security team, the White House said on Thursday as media reports indicated that both countries were trying vigorously to reduce tensions that have bedevilled their relations for more than a year now.

At Wednesday’s meeting, President Obama “received an update on our engagement with the Pakistani government on a range of issues of mutual interest, including efforts to strengthen cooperation along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border,” the White House said.

US sources told Dawn that the White House had been regularly consulting Pakistan’s new ambassador in Washington, Sherry Rehman, on these issues.

Last week, Ambassador Rehman and a Pakistani defence team met the head of the US Central Command, General James N. Mattis, at the embassy. Soon after the meeting, The New York Times reported that Gen Mattis would visit Islamabad later this month for talks with Pakistani military chief and other officials and he might also convey an official apology on the Nov 26 Nato attack on a Pakistani post that killed 24 soldiers.

Pakistan has long demanded such an apology as an important step towards improving ties.

Another sign that both sides are making serious efforts to overcome their differences came earlier Thursday when US ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter hinted that Nato supplies might have resumed through Pakistani airspace. Pakistan had blocked the supplies after the Nov 26 attack and Washington wanted Islamabad to open both land and air routes as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, Ms Rehman is having another important meeting with senior White House officials on apparently accelerated attempts by both sides to rebuild a relationship that has gone sour.

She also met Senator John Kerry, who is considered the Obama administration’s unofficial envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan on Capitol Hill and is often sent to Islamabad for dealing with contentious issues.

Asked for comments on these meetings, Ms Rehman said she could not discuss ongoing negotiations but both sides were eager to leave behind the bitterness of the past year and move ahead with a new zeal.

“Pakistan is still reviewing the full spectrum of its relations with the US in a historic parliamentary review, which will anchor forthcoming decisions in the solid background of public consent,” she said.
So. I gather from Dawn that the good news to emerge from the review is that Obama decided not to give Kayani the shirt off his back. Did he decide to give Kayani the shirt off your back? This is Dawn we're talking about; the glass is always half full on Pakistan's side of the table. I assume we'll have more definite news of Obama's decisions when Gen. Mattis returns from his trip to Pakistan.

All right; I'm outta here until next week. Have fun reading last night's two posts. Oh, one more thing: last week I guessed that the German command at NATO leaked the top secret NATO report titled, The State of the Taliban, which fingered the ISI as aiding and abetting the Afghan Taliban. I also half-joked that the one time I was willing not to blame the British for something was probably the one time I was wrong about them.

It turns out that the only journalists to read the report prior to its leak worked for two British media outlets: the BBC and the (London) Times; this, according to the Economist.


That doesn't make it definite that the leaker was with the British command but it is suggestive. The report was leaked on the eve of a NATO foreign ministers' meeting. The next day the Telegraph reported that a substantial cut in British combat troops would occur in 2013 -- a claim that a defense ministry spokesperson denied but in such a way as to make it seem that the troop cuts were always planned for that year. Not. According to the Telegraph.

Well, if it was the British, I don't hold it against them. The public had a right and a need to know about the report.

Okay, my weekend is now officially underway; I'm off to down a thimblefull of sherry, for medicinal purposes only, of course. Cheers!

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