Kayani's key role in strategic talks with US shows who calls the shots in Pak: NYT

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Karachi, Mar. 22 (ANI): While Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi is leading the Pakistani delegation for the Pak-US strategic talks beginning on Wednesday, it is Pak Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani who is actually in-charge of running the show.

It is well known in Pakistan that Qureshi is just the nominal head of the Pakistani delegation, and it is General Kayani who has been calling the civilian heads of major government departments, including finance and foreign affairs, to his army headquarters to discuss final details, the New York Times reports.

General Kayani's role in organizing agendas for talks has raised alarm in Pakistan, a country with a long history of military juntas.

Pakistan's' leading financial newspaper, The Business Recorder, wrote: "The government needs to consolidate civilian rule instead of handing over its responsibilities, like coordination between different departments, to the military."

"General Kayani is in the driver's seat. It is unprecedented that an army chief of staff preside over a meeting of federal secretaries," Rifaat Hussain, a professor of international relations at Islamabad University, was quoted as saying.

A spokesman at the American Embassy in Islamabad said that General Kayani will attend meetings at the Pentagon with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates on Monday.

He will also attend the opening ceremony of the talks between Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and Qureshi at the US State Department on Wednesday.

The most pressing issues in the talks are likely to be the eventual American pullout from Afghanistan, and Pakistan's concerns about India, the editorial says.

The spokesman for the Pakistani military, Gen. Athar Abbas, said that Pakistan would be "conveying very clearly" its displeasure with India's offer to help train the Afghan Army at the behest of American and NATO forces.

Another key agenda on General Kayani's priority list would be to successfully renegotiate an aid package of 30 billion dollars with the US, the paper says. (ANI)

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