Beware and play hardball

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Dr. Shireen M Mazari:

The much awaited – primarily by Pakistan – Pak-US strategic dialogue will begin today in Washington. The major players, including the COAS of Pakistan, are already gathered in that capital and are being feted like never before. The Americans are being clever by laying out the red carpet for their main Pakistani guests, including not putting them through the notorious scanners but getting their immigration done while they were still in the plane! Now that really is a first for the Yanks. The COAS is especially being softened, with Petreaus being a welcoming host offering military-style entertainment. The ridiculous grin on the face of one of the Pakistanis accompanying General Kayani in the official picture released by the US military says it all – and explains why the Americans think that if they make all the right PR moves before the dialogue, the Pakistanis will have been softened enough to take US dictation. And there will be plenty of hard demands put before the Pakistanis again – let us make no mistake on that count.

The issue for us, though, is that are the Pakistanis prepared to stay the course and stick to some basic demands that they need to make, or will we have a repeat of the Kerry-Lugar drama where our foreign minister effectively became an apologist for the Americans and sought to justify a most demeaning and intrusive piece of Pakistan-specific legislation? So what are the main issues Pakistan needs to focus on and demand a positive response from the Americans?

First, and a basic issue is for the US to deliver on all past outstanding commitments, some made immediately after 9/11 when Musharraf committed this nation to the US’s debilitating and erroneous “war on terror”. Amongst these unfulfilled commitments are: access to US markets especially for our textiles, payment of the Coalition Support Fund for services rendered primarily by the military and the whole ROZ drama which may actually be more costly for Pakistan in terms of conditionalities, so perhaps we need to do a rethink on this since the Americans have not moved yet on this project.
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PAF to launch ‘Exercise High Mark 2010’ next week

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ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) will launch its countrywide “Exercise High Mark-2010”, from next week to test its professional skills and capabilities.

Defence sources say that this kind of exercise is held after every five years and involves all aerial frontiers and bases from across the country, including the latest missile and firepower of the country.

“The exercise would continue for 40 days and, for the first time, the JF-17 Thunder will also participate in the exercise, in addition to F-16s and other fighter planes,” the sources said, adding that it would be entirely an internal activity and no foreign nation would be invited to participate in it.

It is the main peacetime activity and will cover the entire country from Skardu in the north to the Arabian Sea in the south.

The exercise would also involve the army and naval contingents to show an integrated approach to deal with any eventuality in the time of war.

It would include joint operations with extensive participation from the army and navy, which would further enhance cooperation amongst the three forces. –Daily Times

Pakistan Armed Forces War Exercises (pictures)

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No new operation for now, says ISPR

Pakistan Military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas

ISLAMABAD: The military said on Thursday during a visit by US Defence Secretary Robert Gates that it could not launch any new offensive against militants for six months to a year.

The announcement probably comes as a disappointment to the US, which has pushed Pakistan to expand its military operations to North Waziristan to target militants staging attacks against coalition troops in Afghanistan.

The comments by military spokesman Maj-Gen Athar Abbas clearly indicate Pakistan will not be pressurised in the near term to expand its fight beyond militants waging war against Pakistan.

The Pakistan army was overstretched and it was not in a position to open any new fronts. “Obviously, we will continue our present operations in Waziristan and Swat,” Maj-Gen Abbas told DawnNews TV channel.

It was not about years, he said. “It will take us between six months and a year to consolidate the gains in the areas taken back from the militants to make them completely secure and ensure safety of the returnees and stabilise the situation,” he said.

The country’s resources did not allow the army to open a new front. However, if at all it opened a new front it would do so in line with the country’s interests.

He rejected criticism that Pakistan had been slow to move against the Haqqani network that is quite active in Afghanistan and told journalists traveling with Mr Gates that the CIA had failed to provide “actionable intelligence” about the group.

The army launched a major ground offensive against the Pakistani Taliban’s main stronghold in South Waziristan in mid-October.

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