Include Pakistan in Afghan peace process, US told


President Asif Ali Zardari asked the United States on Saturday to take Pakistan along in its efforts for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan and also to address its concerns about the recently announced policy of President Barack Obama on a troop drawdown in the war-torn neighbouring country.
The president was talking to US Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter, who called on him here at the Presidency. “Pak-US bilateral relations were discussed during the meeting,” said a brief statement issued by the president’s office.
An official privy to the meeting, however, told Pakistan Today that Munter called on the president to reiterate the US demand for accelerated efforts against terrorists on the part of Pakistan and a full-scale military operation in North Waziristan.
US authorities believe that Islamabad is dragging its feet and not willing to cleanse the restive tribal region of North Waziristan of the dreaded Haqqani network and other terrorist groups linked to the Taliban.
Pakistan has been quite vocal about its concerns over the US president’s withdrawal plan, particularly the clear hints that he dropped in his speech about the shift of his administration’s focus to the Pakistani tribal areas in the hunt for terrorists.
Another one of Pakistan’s major concerns is the US efforts for reconciliation with the Taliban while keeping Pakistan in the dark.
Recently, US officials met Mullah Omar’s representatives on at least three occasions in Qatar and Germany, but Pakistani authorities were unaware of the important developments. “President Zardari spoke about these Pakistani concerns during his meeting with the US ambassador, telling him to convey them to the Obama administration,” the official said.
Relations between the US and Pakistan are passing through a rough patch in the aftermath of al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden’s killing in a US operation in Abbottabad on May 2 without taking Islamabad into confidence.
The new US Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta claimed on Saturday that al Qaeda’s new chief Ayman al-Zawahiri was hiding in Pakistan’s tribal regions. Panetta, who arrived in Afghanistan on a surprise maiden visit, was of the view that pressure would be mounted on Pakistan to kill Zawahiri.
Munter also annoyed Pakistani authorities on Friday by issuing an unprecedented statement that expressed concern over the ongoing killings in Karachi. Pakistani officials took it as meddling in Pakistan’s internal affairs.
The official said the US envoy told the president that his country attached great importance to its relations with Pakistan and it also expected the Pakistani government to pace up its counter-terrorism efforts.
“The US ambassador once again asked for a military operation in North Waziristan saying that in order to pave the way for the successful reconciliation in Afghanistan it was vital to dismantle the most influential Taliban faction known as the Haqqani network,” he said.