Islamabad, Mar 26 : The two US State Department officials presently camping in Islamabad during the transition of power were reportedly told in no uncertain terms that the US-Pak relationship could change given the new ground realities following the installation of a new democratic government.
PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari met the Americans but did not divulge what transpired between the two sides. His adviser Husain Haqqani, who also attended the meeting, however, said that the American officials had been given notice that the old ways were over. "If I can use an American expression, there is a new sheriff in town. Americans have realized that they have perhaps talked with one man for too long," Haqqani said.
During their 55-minute-long talk with former premier Nawaz Sharif, Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte and the Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian affairs, Richard A. Boucher, were reportedly given enough hints that the US-Pakistan alliance on war on terror was over, or had to be redrawn.
Nawaz said after meeting the two American diplomats that it was unacceptable that Pakistan had become a "killing field."
"If America wants to see itself clean of terrorists, we also want that our villages and towns should not be bombed," the New York Times quoted him as saying at a news conference here. He added that he was unable to give Negroponte "a commitment" on fighting terrorism.
One of Sharif's aides Ahsan Iqbal, said that the ex-PM told Negroponte that the strategy of the partnership against terrorism needed to be reassessed. "Nobody supports terrorism, but there are different ways to counter it," Iqbal said.
The timing of the Americans visit was harshly criticized in the Pakistan media for creating the appearance that the US was trying to dictate policy to a government not even hours old. Dawn editor Zaffar Abbas said: "I don't think it is a good idea for them to be here on this particular day. Here are the Americans, right here in Islamabad, meeting with senior politicians in the new government, trying to dictate terms."
An editorial published in The News was headlined "Hands Off Please, Uncle Sam", and said that the Americans should understand that the newly elected Parliament was now their proper partner, not Musharraf.