Pakistan rejects US envoy
Activists hang shoes on the portraits of US President Obama and US Secretary of State Clinton as they shout slogans during a demonstration in Karachi in this file photo. Pakistan rejects US special envoy Marc Grossman’s request to visit the country. Relations between Islamabad and Washington are at their lowest point in years and were damaged by a cross-border NATO air attack that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers Nov 26, 2011.Pakistan has rejected U.S. special envoy Marc Grossman’s request to visit the country, a senior official said yesterday, highlighting the increasing tensions between the uneasy allies.
“Ambassador Grossman asked to visit Pakistan but we conveyed to him that it was not possible at the moment,” a senior government official, who declined to be named, told Reuters. Relations between Islamabad and Washington are at their lowest point in years and were damaged by a cross-border NATO air attack that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers Nov. 26. The growing tension threatens to set back peace efforts in neighboring Afghanistan, where the United States is gradually withdrawing troops after a decade of war.
Grossman, the U.S. special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, is due to visit Afghanistan and Qatar this week, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Jan. 11. Pakistan said in early December that it had decided to review cooperation with the U.S. and NATO. This review is currently before parliament, with no firm timeline on when recommendations will be presented to the government. U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Jan. 17 that Pakistan had decided the review should be completed before Grossman’s next visit.
‘PM is not guilty’
Aside from the crisis with the U.S. government, the Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s lawyer, Aitzaz Ahsan, said yesterday that the prime minister was not guilty of contempt of court, but should bow to pressure and ask Switzerland to reopen graft cases against the president. His comments suggest a way out of the legal crisis which could theoretically lead to Gilani being ousted from office.
The Supreme Court has ordered the government to ask Swiss authorities to reopen a corruption case against the president, Asif Ali Zardari,that dates back to the 1990s. The case centers on $60 million in kickbacks that Zardari and his late wife, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, allegedly received from Swiss cargo companies. The comments from Ahsan are also the clearest indication yet that Gilani may step back from the brink of further confrontation with the judiciary when he is summoned before Pakistan’s top court today.
The Supreme Court has initiated contempt of court proceedings against Gilani, who has been exasperated by the government’s refusal to write to the Swiss asking them to reopen graft cases against Zardari since his amnesty expired in 2009. “Asif Ali Zardari has complete immunity as president,” Agence France-Presse quoted Ahsan as saying to reporters. “There is no harm in writing a letter to the Swiss authorities. He enjoys immunity in Pakistan and abroad as long as he is president.”