Kayani turns his back on US envoy

Peter Lavoy and General Ashfaq Kayani

RAWALPINDI: Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Kayani refused to meet US Assistant Secretary of Defence Peter Lavoy following Defence Secretary Leon Panetta’s accusations regarding Pakistan harboring insurgents and providing them safe havens.

Panetta had said during his recent visit to Kabul that Washington was running out of patience with Islamabad over its reluctance to go after the Haqqani network in the Tribal Areas.Panetta did not stop just there, falling short of declaring a full scale war with Pakistan when he said on Saturday that the US was at “war in FATA”, adding that the US was willing to “do whatever we have to do to protect our forces”.

Sources said Kayani refused to give a time slot to Lavoy for a meeting despite repeated requests during his two-day visit. “The army chief conveyed to the Pentagon that due to his commitments, he could not meet the visiting US assistant secretary of defence,” an official said. However, Lavoy tried his best to have a meeting with Kayani.“During the last three days, Lavoy constantly remained in touch with the General Headquarters (GHQ) for a meeting with the army chief,” the source added.

The official said the Pakistan Army was annoyed with the US drone policy for Pakistan and Panetta’s statement had only added fuel to fire in an already strained relationship. Lavoy is apparently a pro-Pakistan member of the US administration and he had strongly objected to a resolution moved by Congressman Dana Rohrabacher in February this year that demanded the right to self determination for the people of Balochistan. Meanwhile, a diplomatic source said the second round of Pak-US talks on the resumption of communication line for NATO had also failed.

“Peter Lavoy will now leave the country late on Sunday or early Monday with empty hands,” the source said. However, an ISPR official denied the report that Kayani had refused to meet the US assistant secretary of defence, saying the meeting could not take place due to Sunday being a weekly holiday. “Saturday and Sunday are off in the army also,” he added. US embassy acting spokesmen Robert Raines said no meeting was on schedule between the army chief and Peter Lavoy. “The US assistant secretary of defence, however, had a meeting with his Pakistani counterpart,” said Raines.