Zardari-Panetta meeting `attended by ISI chief`
By Anwar Iqbal, Dawn, January 16, 2011
WASHINGTON: ISI chief Lt-Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha attended an important meeting that President Asif Ali Zardari held with CIA chief Leon Panetta here on Friday, dispelling a perception that the government of Pakistan did not want to involve the military in its dealings with the Americans.
Diplomatic sources told Dawn that Gen Pasha was not in the presidential entourage which arrived here on Thursday. He travelled alone, participated in the president’s meeting with Mr Panetta but stayed away from other activities.
President Zardari left Washington on Saturday evening at the conclusion of the visit during which he also met US President Barack Obama along with Ambassador Husain Haqqani.
Although President Obama came with his entire national security and counter-terrorism team for the meeting, President Zardari did not take any other official with him, causing wild speculation in the media about the purpose and contents of his talks with the US leader.
President Zardari also met other US officials and lawmakers but his meeting with the CIA chief was considered the most important after the one with President Obama at the White House.
After the Zardari-Obama talks, the White House issued a statement saying that the two leaders focused on shared efforts to fight terrorism and to promote regional stability.
But no statements were issued after President Zardari’s meeting with the CIA chief, which led to speculative reports in the media that Mr Panetta had come with plans to expand drone attacks to areas in and around Quetta where the Americans believe some senior Taliban leaders are hiding.
Since the CIA supervises the drone strikes such speculations were easy to make. Both Pakistani and American officials are refusing to disclose the topics discussed at the meeting.
“We do not discuss intelligence matters,” said Ambassador Haqqani when asked to comment on such reports at a briefing during the president’s visit.
But diplomatic observers in Washington say that Gen Pasha’s participation in Mr Zardari’s meeting with the CIA chief contradicts at least one part of these speculative reports which claimed that the Zardari government wanted to keep the military out of its talks with the Americans.
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