Islamabad (Dawn/ANN) - A long anticipated visit by Lt-Gen Zaheerul Islam, chief of Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), to the United States has been rescheduled for early next month.
The general, who took over reins of the premier spy agency in March, was expected to travel to the US this week for meeting CIA director David Petraeus, but put off the trip at the eleventh hour.
The exact reason for postponement remained unclear.
The new dates for the visit were not disclosed for security reasons, but sources said he might be visiting Langley sometime during next fortnight.
The military's public affairs wing - Inter Services Public Relations - while confirming media reports about the postponement said it was because of his "pressing commitments" in the country.
"There is no other reason for postponing the visit," the military spokesman added.
While there are several issues at home that could have forced a delay, one publicly known reason is the visit of Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, whose delegation includes senior intelligence officials.
Both sides (Pakistan and China) are, therefore, expected to discuss security-related issues, which may have required Gen Islam's presence.
A military spokesman did not rule out this and said a number of reasons caused the postponement.
A Pakistani diplomat gave a different explanation for the deferment. He said the timing of the trip was thought to be inopportune after fresh lows in the already fraught ties.
President Zardari's disastrous Chicago trip was hardly over, when a tribal court convicted and sentenced Dr Shakil Afridi, who helped CIA track down Osama bin Laden, to 33 years in jail.
The punishment for Dr Afridi, now hailed in the US as a hero in the fight against al-Qaeda, brought new strains in the relationship.
With Prime Minister Gilani adding his voice to those demanding justice for Dr Afridi, it is likely that some of the frayed nerves in Washington may be soothed.
The diplomat said Gen Islam did not want the Afridi issue to eclipse his trip, during which he wanted to discuss with his counterpart some of the core issues in the bilateral relationship that has now turned toxic, but once formed the bedrock of Pak-US cooperation.
Cooperation between ISI and CIA is said to have continued even during the worst of the phases in the bilateral ties over the past year and a half.
The calculation could have been that Gen Islam travels at a time when the storm over Dr Afridi's punishment would have subsided and the impasse in ongoing negotiations over reopening of Ground Lines of Communication and other sticking points in the ties may have been resolved, thus allowing for a more productive ISI-CIA dialogue.
Ever since the parliament's joint sitting adopted new guidelines for ties with the US last month, it was widely expected that the two countries would sign a security cooperation pact.
But the agreement has not come through as yet due to strong differences over contentious issues like apology for Nov 26 attack, drone attacks and terms for resumption of supplies for coalition forces through Pakistani territory that have prevented them from settling new terms of engagement.
While both sides have publicly expressed frustration with the other, they are however, not ready for divorce and insist on criticality of the relationship.