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Default Anti-Americanism in Pakistan snarls US war efforts - 04-05-2012, 01:53 PM Anti-Americanism in Pakistan snarls US war efforts Last Updated: Thursday, April 05, 2012, 00:32 Comments 0 Tweet Tags: Anti-US, Pakistan, Afghan war Anti-Americanism in Pakistan snarls US war efforts Islamabad: US diplomatic efforts to persuade Pakistan to reopen NATO supply lines to the Afghan war are proving no match for rampant anti-Americanism here, with Pakistani lawmakers increasingly unwilling to support a decision that risks them branded as friends of Washington. Opposition legislators are demanding that the US end its drone strikes against militants as a precondition, complicating US strategies for winding down the 10-year war just weeks before a major NATO conference in President Barack Obama's hometown of Chicago. Relations between the US and Pakistan have been marked by mistrust since the two countries were thrust together following the September 11, 2001 attacks, but shared interests, near-bankrupt Pakistan needs American aid, America needs Pakistan's support against al-Qaeda, had kept the alliance more or less intact. That changed in November when US airstrikes inadvertently killed 24 Pakistani troops on the Afghan border, triggering nationwide outrage and retaliation from Pakistan, which suspended diplomatic contacts and blocked vital land routes for US and NATO troops in Afghanistan. Since then, hardline Islamist and banned militant groups have staged large rallies around the country against any move to reopen the supply lines. One of the leaders of the movement has been Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, the founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group blamed for the 2008 attacks in the Indian city of Mumbai that killed 166 people. Yesterday, the US announced a USD 10 million reward for information leading to the arrest of Saeed, who lives openly in Pakistan. According to many analysts, Saeed has the sympathy or support of the country's powerful military establishment, which shares his hostility to India. The announcement could therefore be seen as a provocation in Pakistan and further strain ties with Washington. Bilateral relations have been hit by a string of crises since last year, including the killing of two Pakistani men by a CIA contractor and the US raid against Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad in May. Observers said the bounty for Saeed, who is now among the five most wanted men in the world, would add to the strains in Pakistan-US ties. In the past, Pakistan has said it has no evidence linking the Jamaat-ud-Dawah chief to terrorism. Nides, who travelled to Pakistan following a series of meetings between top US and Pakistani leaders on the margins of multilateral conferences, said he was visiting Islamabad at a "pivotal time" as the two countries engaged in discussions about the "future of this very, very important relationship". He said he intended to build on talks that have taken place between President Asif Ali Zardari and Special Representative Marc Grossman in Dushanbe and President Barack Obama and premier Gilani in Seoul over the last 10 days. "As President Obama said last week when he met Prime Minister Gilani, we believe that we can achieve a balanced approach in a relationship that respects Pakistan's sovereignty and interests but also represents our concerns about our national security," he said. A "sustained engagement is the most productive way forward" and there was too much at stake "for us to turn away from each other, so we must work through all of these challenges", Nides said. The US also shares the desire for a stable, secure and peaceful Afghanistan, he added. The completion of Pakistan's parliamentary review would offer an opportunity to ensure the relationship is "enduring, strategic and more clearly defined", Nides said. "We have different perspectives. And we will where we have those, seek to find solutions that respect each other's interests," he said. PTI
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