ISI chief attends Zardari''s meeting with CIA head in US

Rezaul H Laskar

Islamabad, Jan 17 (PTI) The powerful Inter-ServicesIntelligence chief attended a meeting that President Asif AliZardari held with CIA chief Leon Panetta last week, dispellinga perception that the Pakistan government did not want toinvolve the military in its dealings with the US.

ISI head Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha sat in on the keymeeting held in Washington on Friday, the Dawn newspaperquoted diplomatic sources as saying.

Pasha was not in Zardari''s entourage that arrived inthe US on Thursday.

Pasha travelled alone to the US, participated in thePresident''s meeting with Panetta but "stayed away from otheractivities", the report said.

The ISI chief''s visit to the US took place against thebackdrop of a court in Brooklyn issuing notices to Pasha, hispredecessor Lt Gen Nadeem Taj and Lashker-e-Taiba leadersincluding Hafiz Muhammad Saeed in connection with a lawsuitfiled by relatives of two Jewish victims of the 2008 Mumbaiattacks.

The Pakistan government has said it will protect theinterests of all officials named in the lawsuit but skirtedthe issue of defending private individuals like Saeed.

Zardari left Washington on Saturday evening at theconclusion of his visit during which he attended a memorialservice for late Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke and metPresident Barack Obama with Pakistan''s Ambassador HusainHaqqani.

Though Obama came to the meeting with his entirenational security and counter-terrorism team, Zardari did nottake any other official with him, causing wild speculation inthe media about the purpose and contents of his talks with theUS President, the Dawn reported.

Zardari also met other US officials and lawmakers buthis meeting with the CIA chief was considered the mostimportant after the one with Obama at the White House.

After the Zardari-Obama talks, the White House issueda statement that said the two leaders focused on sharedefforts to fight terrorism and to promote regional stability.

No statements were issued after Zardari''s meeting withthe CIA chief, which led to speculative reports that Panettahad come with plans to expand drone attacks to areas in andaround Quetta where the Americans believe senior AfghanTaliban leaders are hiding.

Pakistani and American officials are refusing todisclose the topics discussed at the meeting.

"We do not discuss intelligence matters," saidAmbassador Haqqani.

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