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Posts Tagged ‘Gilani’

Sometimes we are really hard on our politicians. I mean, come on guys, they’re people too! Sure, many lie, cheat, and steal from the country. The whole “there’s no I in ‘team‘” saying is completely lost on most of them.  But beneath that lying, cheating, bratty exterior are people, with real feelings. Because politicians – they’re just like us!

For example:

They’re forced to wear dorky costumes that someone told them looked “amazing” at the time!

Ugh. This is SO not something Harry Potter would wear...

They sported bad haircuts in the 80′s and had jungle-themed bedrooms!

You're a tiger, Imran!! Growl! Rawr!

They think fuzzy animals are just SO adorable!

"Gimme the panda!! Give him to me!" "No he's my fuzzy wuzzy bear!" "NO! MINE!"

They really do love their pets!

"Aren't my lions AMAZING?! I call that one Nawaz and the angry one's Shahbaz."

Sometimes all they really want is a nice, big hug…

"If you insist, I might hug. No, really. Insist."

Or a big, fat, kiss!

"Come give your Altaf Bhai a smoochie!" "Oh. God."

So next time you rag on your seedy politician, remember – they’re just like us!

(Credit for the Imran Khan photo goes to Rockistani and via @dishoompk and @fiverupees on Twitter)

(Inspired by US Weekly’s inane “Stars – They’re Just like Us!)

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Telenovela Pakistan

Confrontation. Show-down. Crisis. Judicial coup.

Those were just some of the saucy terms used to describe Pakistan’s recent row last week, when President Asif Ali Zardari named judges to be appointed to Pakistan’s Supreme Court and Lahore High Court without first consulting Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. The Supreme Court called the move unconstitutional and blocked it, sparking conflict and rumors of impending “crisis” and instability. The row was cut short when Pakistan’s very own political magician PM Yousaf Raza Gilani came to the rescue, announcing the government “would go along” with the Supreme Court’s recommendations, assuring all of us, “It is completely over.”

Ha, that’s what you think, Jadoogar.

AP: "Mwahahaha." *Twirl, twirl.*

If there’s one thing about Pakistani politics, it’s that it’s anything but boring. In fact, the machismo-infused, handlebar-twirling scenarios are more comparable to a Mexican soap opera than a democratically elected government. Just when we think stability is restored, we tune into yet another episode of grown men screaming, cackling, switching alliances, and in some cases, crying. Because let’s face it. Zardari and Chaudhry are two burly moustached men who just can’t get along. As Dawn columnist Cyril Almeida noted last week, “The trend that the latest row fit into and the manner of the détente suggest that inevitably there will be another clash. The details of any given eruption or paroxysm aren’t all that important anymore.” The Chief Justice may have been the symbol of Pakistan’s judicial crisis, but his arguably politicized judgments and trump cards make him a far cry from a judiciary’s objective poster child. In fact, he is, according to some accounts, a key ally of Nawaz Sharif, who recently called Zardari “the biggest threat to democracy,” though the PML-N leader did tell reporters after a recent meeting with Gilani that this criticism wasn’t “personal.” Hmmm right.

In in the latest episode of Telenovela Pakistan, Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin resigned from his position “in order to focus on his business.” According to the Wall Street Journal, “Mr. Tarin said he will now work for Silkbank, a private bank in which he’s a major shareholder.” However, despite this statement, the development came on the heels of rumors that it was instead sparked by policy differences with the government. The Financial Times cited a source close to Tarin, who said his resignation “has to do with the government once again dragging its feet on a [tax] clampdown…They just don’t understand. You can’t allow tax dodgers to go free. This is a massive setback for Pakistan’s economy.”

As the drama continues, don’t forget about the figures on the sidelines. Because in every deliciously bad soap opera, exited characters are never gone forever. They are inevitably waiting in the wings, twirling their handlebar moustaches and cackling madly. Cue former President Pervez Musharraf, properly moustached out and undoubtedly smirking at the current state of affairs. In the below interview with CNN, he discusses his increasing Facebook stardom [see this former CHUP post], noting, “It is THE Facebook that provides the connectivity to collectivize all [my] support.” On the current situation and whether he’ll return to Pakistani politics, Mush vaguely responds, “At this moment, Pakistan is not doing well. So if I can contribute anything to the country and if the people want me to contribute, then I’d certainly like to look into that.”

Translation: THE Facebook. Take me home.


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As we approach 2010, blogs and media agencies everywhere are compiling their lists of the past year and decade – the best music, movies, political events, scandals, the list goes on. Rather than give you a somber top 10 for Pakistan, I wanted to list some of the funniest and most memorable quotes of the year:

  1. From RehmanMalik.com, “A welcome massage by Mr. A. Rehman Malik – Minister for Interior.” (Just in case you don’t feel relaxed when you’re in Pakistan.)
  2. Columnist Nadeem Paracha defines Imran Khan as, “A man who still thinks the Taliban is a brand name for a series of chubby, cuddly teddy bears.” (Funny because it’s true.)
  3. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to PM Yousaf Raza Gilani, “Excellency you are not a simple politician but a political magician and I am deeply impressed by your way of governance.”  (Hey, Jadoogar. Harry Potter called. He wants his wand back.)
  4. Lollywood’s sweetheart Meera, exclaiming, “Oh no jaani no, I work for people day and night, for poor people.” (Poor Meera, she can be such a layer.)
  5. A GEO Television reporter, after meeting Tehreek-e-Taliban head Hakimullah Mehsud, said, “Hakimullah is a lively man. He told us he could give us two gifts. One was the Humvee military vehicle that his fighters had captured during a recent raid in Khyber Agency on an Afghanistan-bound supply convoy for Nato forces. The other was a jeep that his men had snatched from UN employees in Khyber Agency.” (I mean. What a gentleman.)
  6. The Pakistan Cricket Board’s TMI press release: “The medical board has reported that Shoaib Akhtar was suffering from genital viral warts, and electrofulguration was done on May 12, 2009.” (Shoaib Akhtar was itching to get back on the field after that procedure.)
  7. AQ Khan wants us to know more about his special interest in the Makrani people: “Makrani children are extremely cute…They looked very much like African pikaninis with dark curly hair and shiny eyes.” (He also wants us to pray for divine intervention, visit Timbuktu, and continue reading his “Random Thoughts” column.)
  8. In response to whether Rehman Malik will be arrested after the National Reconciliation Ordinance was declared null and void, PM Gilani told reporters, “Interior Minister arrests people. So who can arrest him?” (Details, shmetails.)
  9. President Obama, in an interview to Dawn this summer, “Oh, keema … daal … You name it, I can cook it. And so I have a great affinity for Pakistani culture and the great Urdu poets.”  Dawn: “You read Urdu poetry?” Obama: “Absolutely.” (I also can play concertos blind-folded while plucking a banjo with my toes.)
  10. Pakistani cricketer Shahid Afridi: “I would like them to remember me as the craziest cricketer that ever played for Pakistan.” (Boom Boom, Afridi.)

The above quotes were my personal favorites, but there were plenty more. Write in with your own memorable Pakistan-related quotes of the year in the comments section!

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NYT: I have superglued myself to this chair...just TRY and move me.

On Wednesday, a 17-judge bench of Pakistan’s Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, declared the infamous National Reconciliation Ordinancenull and void,” a ruling hailed by media outlets as a “landmark” and “historic” decision. According to the ruling, corruption cases registered between Jan 1, 1986, and Oct 12, 1999 that were dismissed by the NRO can now be reopened, meaning that more than 8,000 people, including 34 politicians, are now under scrutiny.

The main fall guy in the aftermath of this development, though, will be President Asif Ali Zardari. Wednesday’s ruling further fueled criticism of Zardari, who has earned the nickname “Mister Ten Percent” for good reason. Technically, Zardari cannot be prosecuted for these charges, since the Constitution cloaks the president with immunity. We all know that. And if we didn’t, his band of 1920′s-style-cronies were there to remind us yesterday, (I could almost hear them muttering, “Meh, hide the dough“). Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babur told reporters Wednesday, “The president enjoys the immunity under Article 248(2) of the Constitution.” And despite calls from opposition parties for him to step down, Babur asserted the president had “no intention” of doing so.

Borrowing a line from a well-known Bushism, this does not mean more will not be done “to smoke Zardari out of his cave.” Prior to the NRO ruling Wednesday, the NY Times reported that “indignant” Supreme Court judges “demanded to know why $60 million in the suspect gains of President Asif Ali Zardari had been given back to offshore companies in his name rather than returned to the national treasury, where they said it rightfully belonged.”

In the ruling on Wednesday, the judges found that the withdrawal of the cases against Zardari in Switzerland, (ordered by the former attorney general, Malik Qayyum), was illegal and that Swiss authorities should be contacted to “restore the proceedings.” The case, which implicated the late Benazir Bhutto, Zardari, and their agent Jens Schlegelmilch in allegations of taking $60 million in kickbacks, was pending in the Swiss court at the time the NRO was promulgated by former President Musharraf (and brokered, ironically, by Britain and the U.S.) in October 2007. It was then dropped in April 2008.

Amid this controversy, Zardari could take the moral high ground and step down from the presidency, thereby shedding his immunity and leaving him vulnerable for prosecution. However, survival always trumps morality in Pakistani politics. Therefore, Zardari will try to stay in power – but given that his own party seems to be distancing themselves from him – he will increasingly shift power to PM Yousaf Raza Gilani, everyone’s favorite jadoogar.

This shift has been occurring for some time now. Last month, just hours before the expiry of the NRO, the president transferred the power of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal to Gilani, who has increasingly been depicted as the “good guy” in this mess. Zardari is also under increasing pressure to relinquish his other key powers, namely those related to the 17th Amendment, by the end of this month.

Will this be enough to satisfy his opposition? Maybe, but it will also dull the symbolic impact of the Supreme Court ruling yesterday, a decision meant to stab at the rampant corruption in Pakistani society. In the aftermath of the NRO nullification, though, we must also go beyond just holding people accountable and develop solutions that address the root causes behind corruption, and why it is so ingrained in Pakistani culture. If some charges against politicians are politically motivated (because, let’s face it, many are), how can bureaus like the National Accountability Bureau be effective tools in weeding out the good cases from the bad? While complete transparency is a utopian ideal for any society, what good practices can be instituted to get us on a better path?

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"Stupid Jadoogar. I'll Expecto Patronus him one day."

"Stupid Jadoogar. I'll Expecto Patronum him one of these days."

Forbes magazine just released their “World’s Most Powerful People” list, and guess what – Pakistan PM Yousaf Raza Gilani, our very own political magician, made the cut. Ranked at #38 (out of 67), one slot behind Osama bin Laden and two behind Indian PM Manmohan Singh, Forbes wrote,

Less powerful than bin Laden—can’t find him in his own country. Oversees Pakistan’s fledgling civilian government, ceded responsibility for tracking down terrorists to military. Busy fending off Obama, Taliban, Al-Qaeda, deposed militant groups. A little defensive? ‘We want stability in the region. We ourselves are a victim of terrorism and extremism.’ Still has keys to Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.

What Forbes fails to factor in is how well Gilani manages to fend off such forces, or whether it is he we should credit for being able to manage it all in the first place. If the Taliban, Al Qaeda and deposed militant groups are the topics du jour, than shouldn’t Gen. Ashfaq Kayani – the man commanding Pakistan’s armed forces – have made the cut? Moreover, it could be argued that President Asif Ali Zardari is really the “human pinata” who takes beatings from all sides, as evidenced by the recent letter sent by President Obama to his Pakistani counterpart. In the letter, delivered by national security adviser Gen. Jim Jones, Obama said “he expected Mr. Zardari to rally the nation’s political and national security institutions in a united campaign against extremists threatening Pakistan and Afghanistan.” Failing to do so, noted the NY Times, “would undercut the new strategy and troop increase for Afghanistan” he is preparing to approve.

In a recently released article infused with the byline, “Zardari Attempting to Fend off Maneuvers by Military, Intelligence,” MSNBC discusses the fate of Zardari, “who is engaged in seemingly never-ending battles with the country’s powerful military and intelligence establishments.” It seems that as Zardari is increasingly buried under heaps of criticism, political stand-offs, and scandals, [French submarines, anyone?], his Prime Minister – henceforth known as Jadoogar (“magician”) Gilani is sitting pretty, relatively unscathed, and now a member of the Forbes fraternity. How do you like them apples? As Nadir Hassan over at Newsline noted, this isn’t entirely undeserving, given that Gilani has won some political victories. Moreover, he wrote, “Gilani’s power has increased as Zardari has alienated more and more Pakistanis. Fairly or not, Gilani is seen as a counterpoint to Zardari which has allowed him to oppose the president as the country turns against him.”

If I were the Pakistani establishment, I would take the Forbes rankings with a grain of salt, especially considering that Osama bin Laden somehow snagged the 37th spot and Oprah Winfrey is ranked all the way up at #45, [she gives cars to her audience and threw her weight behind Barack Obama, for God's sake!] Another curious and bizarre decision? Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar, India’s most wanted man, is apparently the 50th most powerful person in the world. The Forbes reasoning further solidifies why these rankings should be laughed at rather than taken seriously – “Rumor has it he’s hiding out in Pakistan, protected by appearance-altering plastic surgery as well as friends in the Pakistani intelligence community.”

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What Are They Really Thinking…

We all know a picture is worth a thousand words, but how often do you look at [candid] photos of our Pakistani politicians and wonder what they’re really thinking?

WordPress very conveniently added the “write your own caption” function recently, and I just couldn’t help myself. The photo is of PM Yousaf Raza Gilani and PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif at Tuesday’s reconciliation meeting in Raiwind [Image from Dawn]:

Nawaz thought bubble: Hai, look at Gilanis swoop. Even with my hair plugs I still cant achieve such an aerodynamic style.

Nawaz: Damn Gilani. Why won't my hair plugs swoop like that?

If you could write your own caption, what would it say?

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[Image from NY Times]

Not too long ago, Pakistan state television aired PM Yousaf Raza Gilani‘s speech, officially announcing what we all knew a few hours ago – that the government is restoring Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, effective March 21. The wait for the pre-recorded speech was long, to say the least, [people on twitter and Teeth Maestro's live chat waited for a good three hours from when the news broke].

Here are the positives – the CJP will be restored, hence fulfilling the primary objective of the judiciary movement and the Long March.  Moreover, reported GEO News, “The prime minister said that after consultations with all political forces of the country and President Asif Ali Zardari, the government has decided to restore all deposed judges,” not just Chaudhry. In his speech, Gilani said the reason Chaudhry was not restored before was because “the office of the Chief Justice was occupied.” However, because current Chief Justice Dogar will retire March 21 , “it is therefore the right time to reinstate Iftikhar,” he asserted. Gilani also announced that provincial governments have been ordered to lift Section 144 [banning protests and marches] and release all detained prisoners, another plus given how many activists and lawyers were jailed amid this weekend’s tumultuous developments.

Interestingly, a government official told Reuters that along with Chaudhry’s reinstatement “there will also be a constitutional package,” although no mention of such a deal was made in Gilani’s address. There was also no mention of the future of Salman Taseer, the [unpopular] governor of Punjab [see this interesting article about Taseer's son], although the PM did note in his speech that the Supreme Court decisions of Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif will be reviewed. That announcement marked a definite victory for the PML-N and its supporters, and Nawaz subsequently called off Monday’s planned march to Islamabad.

Media outlets have reported that the military played a prominent role in today’s announcement, albeit from behind the scenes. According to Dawn,

Highly placed sources said that the Army Chief General Ashfaq Pervaiz Kayani frankly told both President Asif Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani that they need to undo some of controversial decisions before the situation spirals out of control. These sources said it was after his not-so-veiled warning that the two top civilian leaders agreed to roll-back some of the controversial decisions of the previous and present governments, including the sacking of the chief justice of Pakistan.

The NY Times noted that the COAS emphasized “he wants to keep the army out of politics, but there was renewed speculation about how long the patience of the army would hold,” while the Reuters blog, Pakistan: Now or Never echoed my sentiments exactly: “…the deal to reinstate Chaudhry may have been achieved as a result of prodding from the Pakistan Army, which begs the question of how well civilian democracy can flourish in Pakistan if it has to be underwritten by the country’s powerful military. His promised reinstatement — announced after days of negotiations — may carry with it a political deal whose outcome and required allegiances we are yet to discover.”

What I found both fascinating and infuriating in Gilani’s speech was how he framed the PPP and President Zardari. Not only did he congratulate Bilawal and Asif Zardari for “Pakistan’s achievements today,” but he glorified the party’s role in the judiciary movement, noting, “the lawyers and the PPP had been together for the cause of justice and democracy…Benazir Bhutto wanted free judiciary and supremacy of the constitution and she had promised for his restoration. PPP respects the educated segment of the society.”

The effort to frame the government and Zardari in a positive light [by reminding the people of Benazir's role] is not surprising but still appalling given the police’s treatment of the lawyers and activists this weekend. With technology tools like blogs, live chats, and twitter, reports of police beatings and detainments were abound. The most shocking allegations were those related to the treatment of female activists in the Long March. According to a March 13 press release by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan [HRCP]:

Not only lawyers and their supporters are being denied their right to freedom of movement, those joining peaceful processions are being subjected to violence. Neither women nor senior citizens are being spared. HRCP strongly condemns the use of brute force on Ms. Musarrat Hilali, not only because she is HRCP vice-chairperson for Frontier province but also because she is a widely respected advocate and has done a lot for the have-nots in Peshawar and across the country. The police had no right to break into her house and intimidate and abuse her family members.

And here’s the heart-wrenching exchange between civil rights activist Tahira Abdullah and Sherry Rehman [a day before her resignation], in which Abdullah breaks down and accused the right hand of the PPP of not knowing what the left hand is doing:

The Long March’s victory today was not because of the PPP – it was in spite of the government’s attempts to thwart the people’s movement. It succeeded despite the state’s attempts to beat, block and detain its own population from voicing their protests. The achievements today, despite what happens next in Pakistan’s political arena, lie with the people of the Long March – not with the politicians. As someone who took part in Teeth Maestro‘s incredible live chat and carefully followed this weekend’s developments, I can state with certainty that I have never witnessed people so dedicated to a cause. Their resolve to hold the government accountable for its promises did not falter – and that was incredibly inspiring. In a CS Monitor blog entry Sunday, Ben Arnoldy wrote, “‘I don’t think in the United States people would ever rally in the streets around a group of lawyers. Where I come from, lawyers aren’t very popular,’ I told one advocate over a cup of tea. He laughed heartily, and said, ‘Even little children here are saying ‘independent judiciary.‘”

I’m not going to mar my write-up today with my usual pragmatic cynicism. Instead, I will end this post with a heart-felt congratulations to all those who supported and were involved in the Long March. This is the tremendous victory you all were working towards, and I sincerely hope it means more positive things – at least for the future of our country’s judiciary. As a fellow citizen, I thank you for your efforts and your sacrifices.

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On Wednesday, media outlets reported that shots were fired at Pakistani PM Yousaf Raza Gilani‘s motorcade near Islamabad’s airport [in Rawalpindi]. Although some officials and news agencies are reporting that Gilani was not in the car at the time, [see AFP] the incident obviously shows a big lapse in security. His press secretary told BBC News, “The prime minister was coming back from Lahore. The firing took place on the Islamabad highway. At this point, we believe the firing was from a small hill on the roadside.” The news agency also cited the official statement from the PM office, which said:

Of the multiple sniper shots fired on the Prime Minister’s vehicle, two hit the window on the driver’s side. However, because of the robust and comprehensive security measures, the Prime Minister and all the members of his motorcade remained unharmed.

UPDATE [1000 EST]: Correspondent Nic Robertson reporting from Islamabad told CNN that the Prime Minister’s office currently won’t say whether Gilani was in the attacked armored car because “it is a security matter.” Three people have reportedly been taken into custody already, and Robertson reported there has been “one claim of responsibility,” although it has not been confirmed whether the group was behind the attack or not. “What is clear,” noted Robertson, “is that tensions are high here.” Because the government has escalated the fight against Taliban, the Taliban is in turn taking the fight into the cities and against government officials.” One government minister reportedly told Robertson that many officials have begun driving around in armored vehicles because they are aware that security threats have increased. [Image from the AP]

UPDATE [1130 EST]: According to Reuters, the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for today’s attack on PM Gilani’s motorcade on the Islamabad Highway. The organization’s spokesman, Muslim Khan, said Gilani was attacked because he was responsible for offensives against militants in the northwest. He added, “We will continue such attacks on government officials and installations.”

What I am often curious about is how these militants “claim” attacks, especially considering that their communication apparatus is seemingly not as sophisticated as, say, the larger Al Qaeda organization, or even Iraqi insurgent groups which release attack claims and videos [proving the attack] on numerous websites, Islamist militant chat rooms, and blogs. Do these groups speak directly to news agencies or make remote calls? Moreover, how quickly after attacks occur do Pakistani militant groups release these claims?

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According to a NY Times piece today, “A top Central Intelligence Agency official [identified as Stephen Kappes, the agency's deputy director] traveled secretly to Islamabad this month to confront Pakistan’s most senior officials with new information about ties between the country’s powerful spy service and militants operating in Pakistan’s tribal areas, according to American military and intelligence officials.” The CIA official reportedly presented evidence that showed that members of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) “had deepened their ties with some militant groups,” specifically the Haqqani Network [see right image of Maulavi Jalauddin Haqqani, and, for more information on the Haqqani Network, read this piece from the  Jamestown Foundation] that were connected to the surge of violence in Afghanistan, including the suicide bombing this month of the Indian Embassy in Kabul.

According to the Times, “The decision to confront Pakistan with what the officials described as a new C.I.A. assessment of the spy service’s activities seemed to be the bluntest American warning to Pakistan since shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks about the ties between the spy service and Islamic militants.” However, the AFP reported Wednesday that Pakistan (not surprisingly) rejected the “malicious” CIA report, asserting that it was “unfounded” and “baseless.” Pakistani military spokesman Gen. Athar Abbas told the news agency, “I would like to emphasize here that the ISI is a premier intelligence agency which has caught or apprehended maximum Al-Qaeda operatives including those who were linked with criminals and responsible for attacking the U.S. mainland on September 11, 2001.”

Although the CIA assessment is significant, it is not surprising. This past weekend, a directive to shift the ISI under the Interior Ministry garnered major attention among Pakistani media outlets. Although the PPP-led government published a press release soon after “clarifying” this decision, speculation over the ISI’s tug-of-war continued, with sources suggesting the move “had been part of a deal with America,” [see CHUP's previous post on the story]. According to an article from The News, the decision was “deeply linked” to Gilani’s visit to the U.S. this week, as the PM would likely “be put on the spot in some of his top-level meetings, confronted with evidence that some out-of-control parts of the Pakistani agencies, either with or without Islamabad’s nod, were working at odds with the U.S. goals and this has to be curbed by the political government if it wants generous economic and political support from Washington…”

The NY Times report, therefore, seems to affirm this previous assertion and is likely to further validate Washington’s concerns on the matter. A piece in today’s Washington Post reported, “Bush administration officials have responded with skepticism to an appeal by visiting Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani for increased intelligence cooperation, which he said would help his country attack militant groups and terrorist encampments near its border with Afghanistan.” One Bush administration official told the Post, “The problem from our perspective has not been an absence of information going into the Pakistani government…It’s an absence of action.”

Although Gilani’s Washington visit appeared rosy on the surface, with both governments exchanging pleasantries in front of reporters, [see related CHUP post], the Post noted, “there was little indication that tensions over their respective contributions to the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban had eased.” The tensions were further illustrated on Monday when a U.S. missile attack killed seven people in Pakistan hours before Bush and Gilani met. Although the U.S. claimed the target, AQ operative Abu Khabab al-Masri, had been killed, Gen. Abbas told reporters that U.S. officials had not notified Islamabad before the attack, adding, “There was no information from their side…They have struck like this many times. We are trying to convince them to share information.”

According to media outlets, Gilani asserted that such attacks violate Pakistan’s sovereignty. In an interview with the Washington Post yesterday, the PM noted that if Pakistan had the capacity and information, “then we can hit [such targets] ourselves. Otherwise, it’s a violation and nobody [in Pakistan] will like it.”

The recent PM visit (looking beyond the pleasantries), as well as today’s report on the ISI’s alleged ties to militant groups, may mark the beginning of a deterioration of U.S.-Pakistan ties, both at the diplomatic level, and at the intelligence (CIA-ISI) level. Will this lead, however, to a unilateral U.S. strategy in Pakistan?  Daniel Simons from the Council on Foreign Relations advised in an op-ed today:

Washington should seek to redefine relations with Pakistan, which evolved ad hoc after 9/11. Detailing how we expect Islamabad to help realize mutually agreeable aims is a necessary step toward a more collaborative and sustainable relationship. Putting American troops on Pakistani soil would negate any potential benefits of the Biden-Lugar legislation, [referring to the legislation to triple U.S. nomilitary aid to Pakistan].

Essentially, he added, “An assertive, unilateral U.S. military strategy is more likely to compound our problems than to solve them.” Given the anti-U.S. sentiment already evident in the region, such a statement is likely to ring true.

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On Monday, President Bush praised Pakistani PM Yousaf Raza Gilani “for his commitment to their joint battle against extremists.” According to the Associated Press, “Bush and Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani strolled before the assembled media on the South Lawn after a private Oval Office meeting. Appearing upbeat, they sought to publicly ensure their constituencies that the U.S-Pakistan bond is tight and intact despite tensions between Washington and Islamabad.”

This is Gilani’s first visit to the United States since his PM appointment following the February 2008 elections. Reuters, in its coverage, noted Monday’s meeting came just “hours after a suspected U.S. missile strike killed six people, possibly including an Al Qaeda chemical and biological weapons expert, in a Pakistani tribal region.” The news agency added, “The strike underscored U.S.-Pakistani tensions that Gilani’s visit was intended to dispel…”

After watching Bush’s statements to the press Monday, I realized we obviously weren’t going to hear the uncensored, no-holds-barred details of his and Gilani’s talks. Although Gilani said the Pakistani government was “committed to fight against those extremists and terrorists who are destroying and making the world not safe,” he stopped short of making any concrete public promises about how Pakistan would deal with militants in its border areas, noted Reuters. The U.S. President was equally vague, calling today’s session “constructive,” predictably asserting, “After all…Pakistan is a strong ally and a vibrant democracy.”

The reality of most official state visits is that the public only hears a regurgitation of official rhetoric. Politicians often “play nice” for the camera, summoning images of pixies, fairy dust, and prancing hand-in-hand through fields of daisies. Although Washington is no doubt impatient with Pakistan’s new government, Bush seemed to play extra nice today, particularly when he added almost as a sidenote, “Of course we talked about the common threat we face…extremists who are very dangerous people.” Somehow I think the more gritty details played out during the off-the-record meetings. [See the video below]:

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