- U.S. Treasury designates 5 individuals for links to terror groups
- Gilani denies claims the Haqqani network is linked to Pakistani intelligence
- Pakistan-U.S. relations are strained over the charges
- The Haqqani terrorist network has carried out several high-profile attacks
Pakistan's prime minister Thursday rejected accusations made by a top U.S. military official last week that the Haqqani terrorist network is a "veritable arm" of Pakistan's intelligence services.
"The accusations made by U.S. officials were unexpected," Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani said. "We reject all the accusations."
Gilani's comments came at a meeting of political leaders that he had convened to formulate a unified response to the U.S. allegations, as well as to discuss national security.
He was responding to charges made by U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen, who said last week that the Haqqani network -- which has carried out a number of high-profile terror attacks in Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, and elsewhere -- acted "as a veritable arm of Pakistan's intelligence."
Washington's allegations have strained ties between the two countries, which have been in an uneasy alliance in the war against terror since 2001.
Also attending the all-party conference in Islamabad were Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the army chief; and Gen. Khalid Shameem Wynne, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee.
Lt. Gen. Shuja Pasha, Inter-Services Intelligence chief, and Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar were scheduled to brief the participants on the latest state of Pakistani-U.S. relations, as well as regional security issues, an official with the prime minister's office told CNN.
At least 56 representatives from the country's 22 major political parties were also invited to attend the conference, the official said.
Gilani said Pakistan had come under scrutiny due to the conflicting self-interests of international powers in the region, and that peace efforts were badly affected by the recent violence in Pakistan.
The "American statements shocked us, and negate our sacrifices and successes in the ongoing war against terror," Gilani told the conference, according to local media.
"Pakistan cannot be pressured to do more," he added, expressing his gratitude to the Pakistan military for its efforts.
Western counterterrorism officials believe that contrary to Pakistan's assertions, the Haqqanis rely on Pakistani territory -- specifically North Waziristan and the Khurram agency -- to organize, resupply and raise funds.
Khar told the United Nations General Assembly in New York earlier in the week that "very few countries have been ravaged by the monster of terrorism as brutally as Pakistan. It is Pakistan's firm determination not to allow any space on its territory for militants and terrorists."
Thursday, the U.S. Treasury Department named five individuals who it says provide "financial, material or technological support" or act "on behalf of the most dangerous terrorist organizations operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan."
"These financiers and facilitators provide the fuel for the Taliban, Haqqani Network and al Qaeda to realize their violent aspirations," said Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen in a statement. "That is why we are taking these actions today and will continue our relentless efforts to choke off streams of financial and other support to terrorists."
The designation means that U.S. citizens and businesses are prohibited from engaging in any transactions with the named individuals and any assets they may hold in U.S. jurisdictions are frozen, the Treasury statement said.
Among those named are brothers Hajji Faizullah Khan Noorzai and Hajji Malik Noorzai, who are alleged to fund Taliban activities in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and Abdul Aziz Abbasin, said to be a key commander in the Haqqani network.
The relationship between Pakistani intelligence and the Haqqanis goes back to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan when Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United States supported the mujahedeen resistance. Intelligence officials believe Pakistan still regards the Haqqanis as an important tool in countering Indian influence in Afghanistan and helping shape any future peace process in line with Islamabad's priorities. With an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 fighters, the Haqqanis' close relationship with both the Afghan and Pakistan Taliban makes them an important player in the region.
Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, a spokesman for the directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence, acknowledged the service has had contacts with the Haqqanis.
"Any intelligence agency would like to maintain contact with whatever opposition group, whatever terrorist organization ... for some positive outcome," he told CNN in a telephone interview this month.
However, those contacts do not mean that the ISI supports or endorses the organization, he added.
The Haqqanis are widely regarded as one of the most effective militant groups in Afghanistan. Western intelligence officials believe the Haqqanis were involved in the assassination this month of the Chairman of Afghanistan's High Peace Council, Burhanuddin Rabbani, and an attack on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul in June. Rabbani himself alleged that the group that attacked the hotel had been in phone contact with people in the town of Miranshah in the Pakistani territory of North Waziristan, long regarded as a stronghold of the Haqqani network.