Washington, May 9 : The Bush administration is learnt to have withdrawn the appointment of Maj. Gen. Jay W. Hood as a senior American officer based in Pakistan to fight Al Qaeda and the Taliban in tribal areas, reflecting the widening shadow that the military prison at Guant¡namo Bay was still casting over American foreign policy.
Maj Gen Hood was the commander of the US prison at Guant¡namo Bay, Cuba, between 2004 and 2006, when it was alleged that US military authorities had desecrated the Quran and force-fed the detainees with tubes who were engaging in hunger strikes at the prison. For the ugly incidents, Hood was severally criticised in the Pakistani media, besides receiving a backlash from the Islamic world.
There were around 65 Pakistanis lodges inside the Guant¡namo Bay prison during the time when those horrendous incidents took place inside the four walls of the prison, and after their release and return to home country, their accounts have only added to anti-American sentiment in the country.
Over the recent weeks, several leading Pakistani military and foreign affairs commentators denounced General Hood's selection, calling on their new government to block his appointment. But, it remains unclear whether Pakistan's new government requested that the appointment be canceled.
In an article in a Pakistani daily, Shireen M. Mazari, director general of the Institute of Strategic Studies, wrote: "Guant¡namo Bay itself has become a symbol of injustice, torture and abuse of Islam, and sending a commanding officer from there to Islamabad begs the question: What is the message coming out of the Pentagon for Pakistanis by this insensitive act?"
He added, "Equally important, given that host governments always have a choice of refusing a nominee - and many Western countries have exercised that right in the diplomatic nominees of the Pakistan government - why has the Pakistan government chosen to silently accept what the U.S. military dishes out, with no thought to the sensitivities of its own people?"
A Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammed Sadiq reportedly said that the government was "fully cognizant of the public sentiments and sensitivities regarding the reported transfer of General Hood to Islamabad," and he added, "We hope to address this matter of public interest in the best possible manner."
On the other hand, American military officials also said that General Hood's effectiveness could be seriously hindered, and that his personal safety might even be at risk if he were to take up the post. Commenting Gen Hood's withdrawal, an American military spokesman said that "General Hood is being considered for a different, equally important job in the Centcom headquarters."