ISI chief Ahmed Pasha leaves for US to restore ties

Islamabad: Pakistan`s powerful ISI chief Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha on Wednesday left for the US in an apparent bid to defuse mounting tensions between the two sides over a slew of incidents, including Osama bin Laden`s killing in a covert American raid and suspension of USD 800 million in military aid to Islamabad.

"Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, Director General of Inter-Services Intelligence, has proceeded to USA for a day-long visit to coordinate intelligence matters," said a brief statement from the military.

It did not give more details of his unscheduled trip.

Pasha embarked on the visit a day after the US Army`s Central Command chief, Gen James Mattis, arrived here for talks aimed at defusing tensions between the two countries over a series of incidents, including the suspension of US military aid.

Senior American officials announced on Sunday that the US administration had suspended the payment of military aid.

They said certain steps taken by Pakistan, such as the expulsion of US military trainers, justified the move.

The US made the decision after Pakistan expelled over 100 American military trainers. The move is also aimed at pressuring Pakistan to take more steps against terrorists.

The US media said Pakistan has refused visas to US military officers, which annoyed the Obama administration.

"We have to show that this is a two-way street, not just a one-way street. They have some obligations," Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has said.

"And they`ve got to know that we`re not going to give out a blank cheque until they show that this is a two-way relationship," Panetta said referring to suspension of the USD 800 million of military aid to Pakistan.

Pakistan`s Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar yesterday warned that his government might withdraw troops from the tribal regions bordering Afghanistan as a response to the suspension of US military aid.

The military aid that has been held up includes USD 300 million to be paid as reimbursement to Pakistan for expenses incurred in the war on terror.

Mukhtar warned that the US move could harm Pakistan`s campaign against al-Qaeda and Taliban.

Following a meeting of the Pakistan Army`s Corps Commanders chaired yesterday by army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the military announced that it would fight terrorism "in our own national interest using our own resources".

Relations between the US and Pakistan deteriorated after CIA contractor Raymond Davis was arrested in Lahore in January for gunning down two armed Pakistani men.

Though the two sides hammered out a deal to release Davis, military and intelligence cooperation came to a standstill after the covert US raid that killed bin Laden in Abbotabad on May 2.

The Pakistani military was also angered by a series of leaks to the American media by US officials about its alleged closeness to certain militant groups like the Haqqani network.

Recently, US Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen said he believed the Pakistani government had "sanctioned" the recent killing of journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad.

The ISI has denied allegations that it was involved in the abduction and murder of Shahzad.