Change in US attitude leads to WB $2.3bn aid
By Shaheen Sehbai
NEW YORK: Despite the growing tensions in the rugged Fata battlefields between the US and Pakistani armies, diplomats and politicians of the two countries in New York’s tall plazas are close to reaching a wider understanding on some highly
sensitive issues, including the key question of how to neutralise the militant Jihadi outfits hitherto protected by the secret establishment in Pakistan.
“There have been detailed discussions on the mechanics of what needs to be done in this regard,” officials close to the negotiations admit.
The talks with President Bush, Condoleezza Rice and US military generals were focussed on how Jihadi Lashkars thriving in Pakistan with their leaders, including ex-Lashkar Taiba chief Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, Jaish Mohammad leader Maulana Azhar Masood and their likes, could be put out of business.
The Pakistani side understands the US concerns but since the PPP leadership is new and is still trying to get full civilian control over the secret agencies and their sponsors in the civil and military establishment, a perception of not being able to deliver on key issues has developed, insiders say.
Although, President Asif Zardari is in New York for the UN General Assembly, his talks with the US officials have assumed a far greater significance as there appear to be serious negotiations going on to defuse the tensions on the Pak-Afghan border and to remove the US apprehensions about Pakistan’s sincerity in dealing with the Jihadis.
Top US leaders are involved in several meetings of President Zardari and his team with Condoleezza Rice, Zalmay Khalilzad, US Army commanders and Pakistan’s National Security Adviser Maj Gen Mahmood Durrani.
A diplomatic source claimed on Thursday night that Zardari’s meetings with Bush and Condi Rice had largely released the pressure on Pakistan because the White House had been convinced that given time and space, the PPP leadership will deliver on matters where General Musharraf and his team double crossed the Americans.
“Memos have been sent by the White House to all departments that Pakistanis are to be helped,” the source claimed, saying the first manifestation of this change in the US attitude was a direct offer by the World Bank President to President Zardari to provide almost $2.3 billion as immediate help to ease its economic crisis, including the balance of payments situation.
This was in sharp contrast to the meeting of the same president of the World Bank with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani a few weeks ago during his US visit in which he had nothing to offer but only criticism, the source said. The World Bank, it is assumed by everyone, looks at the mood of the White House before making critical decisions and its mood suddenly appears to have changed, sources in the Pakisani camp claim.
Likewise, these sources are claiming that pressure on Pakistan from New Delhi and Kabul has also been largely released because of the Zardari meetings with PM Manmohan Singh and President Karzai.
With India, the composite dialogue is back on track and a three-month deadline has been agreed and announced to jump start all the tracks which were frozen during the Musharraf regime.
Likewise, agreement on opening trade routes will help boost Pakistan’s trade and business sectors as Pakistani business community has been demanding for years that land trade routes should be opened, giving both importers and exporters
a tremendous cost advantage in greatly reduced shipping costs. Over 2,000 items will now be bought and sold via the ground route, saving millions in shipping costs.
With Afghanistan, Pakistani sources say, the special handling of Karzai by President Zardari has softened him and with key US mediators playing their role, Afghanistan is now ready to make honest efforts to reduce tensions with Pakistan.
An informed source said the US side had been insisting on offering the Pakistani military and paramilitary forces training in fighting the al-Qaeda terrorists and Pakistan had agreed to go along in the weeks and months to come.
There is a clear understanding in the Pakistani camp that if Democratic Party candidate Barack Obama wins the White House in November, a serious effort will be made to shift the Iraq war to Afghanistan and Pakistan, which may increase some of the existing tensions and problems.
But US experts in the Pakistani camp argue strongly that not much change would ultimately come as once Obama becomes the president and gets briefings by the Pentagon, CIA and others, he may (in fact one diplomat said he will) agree to continue the war in Iraq because these briefings would suggest that the US was winning the war in Iraq.
Pakistani sources admit that despite tremendous sacrifices and efforts made by Pakistan to support the US war on terror, the perception that Pakistan was a problem and not a solution was widespread in the US and this was a failure of Pakistani lobbyists and image managers.
A recent poll by a Chicago-based think tank, to be released soon, shows 57 per cent of Americans want Pakistan to be bombed and punished as it was not an ally of the US. This poll may cause a lot of embarrassment for the Bush administration.
But a Pakistani source argued that the same was the situation in Pakistan where more than 75 per cent of the people considered US as an enemy. “But governments do not run or formulate their policies based on public opinion polls,” the source said.
President Zardari, in his UN General Assembly address, also mentioned the great amount of human losses that Pakistan had suffered, more than all the Nato countries combined but still doubts persisted about Pakistan’s honesty and sincerity.
Most of these suspicions centre around the role of the secret Pakistani establishment, which supported a large part of the Jihadis’ structures, despite telling the Americans to the contrary. It is this double role which is the cause of the suspicions and Pakistan is now trying to make its efforts more transparent so that what it says is also seen to be implemented on the ground.
Courtesy: The News, 27/9/2008