Obama tough-talking causing unease in Pak establishment

There are indications that Obama's tough-talking has caused some ‘pretty big problems’ for the country's leadership.

Written by Agencies | Islamabad | Published: March 29, 2009 4:28:34 pm

Though Pakistan has broadly welcomed the new US Afghan-Pak policy,there are indications in Islamabad that President Barack Obama’s tough-talking has caused some ‘pretty big problems’ for the country’s leadership.

Pakistan will convey through diplomatic channels its concerns over certain aspects of the new US policy announced by Obama this week,officials said.

“We will speak to them (the US) on issues of concern in subsequent diplomatic negotiations,” presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar told the Dawn newspaper.

Senior officials of the Foreign Office too said Pakistan’s concerns would not go unnoticed and would be taken up at an ‘appropriate level’.

Obama had announced several incentives,including a hike in economic aid for Pakistan,passage of a law on Reconstruction Opportunity Zones for the country’s tribal areas and commitment to democracy.

However,at the same time,he bluntly said there would be no ‘blank cheques’ for Pakistan and that it will have to show commitment to eliminate al-Qaeda within its borders.

Babar said ‘misgivings about Islamabad’ always existed in Washington’s approach but the positive elements in the revamped policy are new and they needed to be hailed.

He denied that the presidency’s welcoming of the policy contradicted the thinking in the Foreign Office,saying it was consulted while devising the response.

However,sources in the Foreign Office insisted its reaction was ‘mixed,guarded and not effusive’.

“There are pretty big problems in the (US) policy about which our leadership is not speaking,” a senior official said.

President Asif Ali Zardari had on Saturday lauded the new US strategy as a ‘positive change’.

“The US presidency’s new approach represents a positive change. It is an endorsement of our call for economical,social uplifts as a means of fighting extremism,” Zardari had said in a speech to a joint sitting of Parliament.

He had welcomed the 1.5-billion dollar aid package announced for the country. Zardari had also said Pakistan will not allow its soil to be used for terrorism directed against any country and at the same time,will not allow anyone to violate its sovereignty — an apparent reference to a spate of missile attacks in its tribal areas by US drones.

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