Significant Pak policy changes may be in the offing: Report

"(The US) President (Barack) Obama and other top US officials have maintained a generally positive posture towards Pakistan in the weeks following the Abbottabad raid, while also noting that serious questions have arisen over the circumstances of bin Laden's refuge," said a latest report on US-Pakistan relationship by Congressional Research Service (CRS), an independent research wing of the US Congress.

The CRS report running into 28 pages said, "The US government reportedly has no conclusive evidence indicating that official Pakistan had knowledge of bin Laden's whereabouts, but officials in both countries are said to be waiting anxiously for details from a large cache of intelligence found in bin Laden's compound, some of which might implicate Pakistani agents" .

Privately, senior Administration officials reportedly are divided over the future of the bilateral relationship, with some at an apparent loss for patience and advocating strong reprisals for perceived Pakistani intransigence.

Thus, significant policy changes may be in the offing, CRS said, which prepared the report for US lawmakers.

Evidence for this was found in the statements of Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Senator John Kerry, the senior-most US official to visit Pakistan after bin Laden's death.

Kerry in an interview had said, "In the Congress, this is a make-or-break moment" for aid to Pakistan, and said he would tell Pakistani leaders there needed to be "a real demonstration of commitment" to fighting terrorist groups in coming months".

The report said Capitol Hill has been the site of much pointed questioning of the wisdom of continued engagement with a national government that may at some levels have knowledge of bin Laden's whereabouts, with figures from both major parties expressing disbelief at Pakistan's allegations of ignorance and calling for greater oversight and accountability for future US assistance to Pakistan.

"Still, senior Members have tended to take a more measured view, with the House Speaker himself voicing the opinion that present circumstances call for more engagement [with Pakistan], not less.

Such sentiments track well with the view of many independent observers that—despite ample reasons for discouragement and distrust—the US has no good options other than continuing to engage Pakistan in what one analyst calls "the geostrategic equivalent of a bad marriage", it said.

CRS said for a wide array of observers, the outcome of the years-long hunt for bin Laden leaves only two realistic conclusions: either Pakistani officials were at some level complicit in hiding the fugitive, or the country's military and intelligence services were exceedingly incompetent in their search for top al Qaeda leaders.

In either case, after many years of claims by senior Pakistani officials—both civilian and military—that most-wanted extremist figures were finding no refuge in their country, Pakistan's credibility has suffered a serious blow.

Pakistan's military and intelligence services have come under unusual domestic criticism for being unable to detect and intercept a foreign military raid deep inside Pakistani territory, and for ostensible incompetence in detecting the presence there of the world's most-wanted terrorist, it said.


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