By Muhammad Tahir
ISLAMABAD, Jan. 26 (Xinhua) -- Pakistan and the United States, allies in the so-called war on terror, are set to revive their strategic dialogue later this month despite angry anti-American rhetoric from Islamabad, particularly on the issue of the American covert drone campaign.
Officials in Islamabad said the Pakistan-U.S. strategic dialogue ministerial meeting is scheduled in Washington on Jan. 27 after three years.
The last session of the strategic dialogue was held in 2010 and the process was later stopped due to tensions over the unilateral U.S. military raid that had killed al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden in Abbotabad.
The adviser to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz, will lead a senior level delegation to the ministerial level dialogue.
The Pakistan-U.S. ministerial level dialogue was revived in August 2013 during U.S.Secretary of State John Kerry's visit to Pakistan. That was the first high level contact since the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has assumed power following the May parliamentary elections.
The talks are being held just few days after the U.S. approved a law to provide some financial aid to the cash-strapped Pakistan on condition that the Sharif government would release Pakistani doctor Shakil Afridi, who had helped the CIA in penetrating Osama bin Laden's lair.
The Americans had admitted establishment of a secret center in Abbotabad to spy on Osama bin Laden and had used Afridi to run a fake vaccination campaign to get information about him.
While Afridi's action was widely believed in Pakistan as an " act of treason," he was seen as a hero in the United States for his role in the killing of bin Laden. His action has also been cited as a serious setback for the anti-polio campaign in Pakistan as the Taliban banned the vaccination in Waziristan tribal region on the notion that the campaign could be used for espionage.
Senior U.S. officials had been demanding Afridi's release since his arrest in a sheer disregard for the laws of a sovereign country to try its own nationals for "conspiracy against the state."
The U.S. demanded the release of a Pakistani national but has itself rejected repeated calls from Pakistani leaders to free an ailing Pakistani lady doctor, Aafia Siddiqui, who had been meted nearly 80 years jail term for allegedly firing on U.S. soldiers.
As there is no letup in Pakistan-U.S. tension and mistrust, Pakistan blasted the decision to attach aid to the release of Dr. Afridi.
U.S. President Barack Obama this month signed into law the Consolidated Appropriations Bill 2014, approved by U.S. Congress, which says Washington could withhold 33 million U.S. dollars of its allotted aid to Pakistan until Secretary of State John Kerry certifies that Shakil Afridi has been released and cleared of all charges.
Pakistan's Foreign Ministry rightly pointed out in its reaction that any linkage of U.S. assistance to the Afridi case is not in keeping with the "spirit of cooperation" between the two countries.
But these remarks will have no impact on the United States as the majority in Pakistan believe that the United States always serves its own interests even in dealing with its close allies.
Pakistanis still suffer from the impact of the situation in Afghanistan. People in Pakistan are unanimous in rejecting aids which could compromise the country's independence and sovereignty.
The CIA-controlled drone mission still haunts Pakistan-U.S. ties as Washington is in no mood to address Islamabad's serious concerns over violations of its territorial integrity by the American spy aircraft which enter Pakistani airspace and fire missiles at will.
Observers here said that Pakistan's political leadership should forcefully take up issues of national interests with the United States at every forum since Pakistan is a sovereign state and not a vassal of the United States.