ISI chief meets US officials in Qatar to mend ties: report

Last Updated: Fri, Dec 30, 2011 06:14 hrs

Islamabad: Inter-Services Intelligence chief Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha's recent visit to Qatar, home to the US Central Command's regional headquarters, has sparked speculation about an 'intelligence back channel' between Pakistan and the US to reset troubled security cooperation.

Pasha, whose overseas trips are not officially announced, returned on Wednesday from a trip to Qatar that was "authorised" by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, the Dawn newspaper reported today.

A western diplomatic source told the daily that Pasha met US officials during his stay in Qatar.

Pasha's visit followed the release of the US Central Command's preliminary report on the cross-border NATO air strike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers on November 26.

The attack took Pakistan-US ties to a new low.

Central Command chief Gen James Mattis initially planned to visit Islamabad this week to share with the Pakistani military authorities findings of the probe.

Mattis had to cancel the visit after his hosts expressed their inability to receive him because of the situation in Pakistan, where anti-America sentiments are running high and a parliamentary body is working to review the terms of engagement with the US, the report said.

Gilani had himself disclosed that Pasha was visiting Qatar during a media interaction earlier this week. The premier said he had approved the trip.

Gilani is set to travel to Doha next month.

The Dawn quoted diplomatic observers as saying that indications from Islamabad and Washington pointed towards an impending thaw in relations that went into a free fall after the NATO attack.

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