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US-Pak crisis deepens: Gilani summons Khar back from New York

Islamabad: The US-Pak stand-off over ISI’s links with Haqqani terror network deepened today after Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani summoned Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar back from US even as Pakistan army voiced concern over American allegations.

Gilani asked Khar, who was representing Pakistan at the UN General Assembly in New York, to return to the country immediately. Khar was expected to fly back to Islamabad tonight.

The premier had decided to hold a meeting of political parties to “apprise them on the security situation in the wake of threats emanating from outside the country”, said a statement from Gilani’s office.

Khar had been “summoned to reach Pakistan soon to be present in the briefing, which will be given by all the concerned authorities”, it said. The proposed meeting “will send a strong message that the nation stands united when the defence and security of the country is at stake”, the statement said.

It added, “Political differences in domestic politics do not come in the way of national and foreign policy issues, which are above party politics.” The move to call back Khar follows US allegations that ISI “supported and encouraged” its “veritable arm” Haqqani terror network to launch attacks in Afghanistan.

The premier had earlier called off his visit to the US and sent Khar in his place. Though Gilani said he had cancelled the visit to oversee relief operations in flood-hit areas, reports said he had decided not to go to the US after President Barack Obama refused to meet him on the sidelines of the UN meet.

The Foreign Minister would meet both Gilani and President Asif Ali Zardari on her return, media reports said. Earlier in the day, Pakistan Army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani chaired a six-hour special meeting of his Corps Commanders to review the security situation in the backdrop of growing tensions and sharp escalation of rhetoric with the US.

There was no official word on what transpired during the meeting but Geo News channel reported that the army commanders rejected the US accusations. They decided to give a “fitting response” to any cross-border attacks by militants based in Afghanistan, the channel reported.

The army commanders agreed that Kayani would meet Zardari and Gilani to take the political leadership into confidence, the channel reported. Gilani too spent a busy day contacting leaders of different political parties to develop consensus on the US accusations.

While Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman called on Gilani, the premier also spoke on phone with PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif, Muttahida Qaumi Movement leader Altaf Hussain, Awami National Party chief Asfandyar Wali Khan, PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Jamaat-e-Islami head Munawar Hassan.

Gilani discussed the US accusations and his plan to convene a meeting of the country’s top political leadership with these leaders. In another related development, Pakistan’s second highest ranking military officer expressed “concern about the negative statements emanating from the US”.

Gen Khalid Shameem Wynne, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, made the remarks during a meeting this morning with visiting US Central Command chief Gen James Mattis. Wynne called for “addressing the irritants” in the Pakistan-US relationship which are “a result of an extremely complex situation”, a military statement said.

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