ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan’s military issued a blunt call on Tuesday for outside powers to stop demanding it do more and prove its sincerity in the campaign against militancy as the U.S. regional military chief visited.
Pakistan has been a close ally in U.S.-led efforts against terrorism since the September 11 attacks on the United States although it has never been able to dispel suspicion in some quarters that it had maintained links to some militants.
Such suspicion has been renewed by Indian accusations that some Pakistani state agencies were linked to November’s militant attacks on Mumbai.
Western powers have not supported those Indian accusations, although they often call on Pakistan to do more in fighting Taliban and al Qaeda militants, especially those on the Afghan border in northwest Pakistan.
The chief of the Pakistani armed forces, General Tariq Majid, bemoaned “repetitive rhetoric by some of the external players asking Pakistan to do more and prove sincerity.”
“Such unhelpful statements must stop,” Majid said.
He did not refer to any country or to U.S. Central Command chief General David Petraeus, who arrived in Pakistan earlier for talks with government and military leaders.
British Defence Secretary John Hutton was also in Pakistan this week. Britain has the second largest contingent of soldiers in Afghanistan, behind the United States, and is also worried about militant infiltration from Pakistan.
Both the United States and Britain are major donors of aid to Pakistan, including help to tackle terrorism.
“International players must come out from the coercive mindset and instead start delivering on the promised capacity assistance,” Majid said in a statement.
The thinly veiled criticism of the United States follows Pakistani anger over about 30 U.S. air strikes on militants on the Pakistani side of the border last year.
Pakistan says the attacks violate its sovereignty and are counter-productive. Support for the U.S. campaign against militancy is deeply unpopular with many Pakistanis.
Pakistan has in the past used Islamist militants to further foreign policy objectives and it was the main supporter of the Taliban until the September 11 attacks.
But Majid said Pakistan did not need to prove its sincerity considering the sacrifices it was making “which cannot be matched by any of those players making these demands.”
About 1,000 Pakistani soldiers have been killed in fighting against militants in the northwest since 2001.
Petraeus met President Asif Ali Zardari and army chief General Ashfaq Kayani for talks that included Pakistan’s response to the Mumbai attacks, which India and the United States said was carried out by a banned Pakistani-based militant group.
“It is clearly in the interests of all countries involved that Pakistan succeed in dealing with its internal problems,” Petraeus told reporters.
He did not refer to Majid’s statement.
Petraeus said he had also discussed cross-border movement of militants and U.S. reinforcements in Afghanistan. The United States has about 32,000 troops in Afghanistan but that number is expected to go up considerably this year.
Petraeus has been credited with helping pull Iraq back from the brink of civil war with a strategy that brought a “surge” of 30,000 extra U.S. troops. President-elect Barack Obama has said he would put more focus on defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Editing by Sugita Katyal