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Pakistani parliament demands US apology over border attacks

IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency

Islamabad, March 20, IRNA -- Pakistani parliament Tuesday opened debate to reevaluate the country’s relationship with the United States and set new terms of engagement with the U.S. and its NATO allies in Afghanistan.

The Parliamentary Committee on National Security in its recommendations asked the government to seek a formal apology from the U.S. over the deadly air strikes by the American fighter jets and helicopters on two Pakistani border posts in November, which had killed 24 soldiers.

The parliamentary review had been decided after the U.S. strikes, which had sparked widespread condemnation across Pakistan and the people wanted a quick review of the relationship.

The Parliamentary Committee on National Security had been tasked to put forward recommendations to reassess ties with the U.S./NATO and ISAF.

The parliament, both the National Assembly and the Senate, will also float suggestions about supplies for US-led NATO troops in Afghanistan via Pakistan’s land route, which were blocked after the U.S. strikes.

“The Government of Pakistan should seek an unconditional apology from the US for the unprovoked incident dated 25th-26th November 2011 in Mohmand agency,” head of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security, Senator Raza Rabbani said in his speech.

Rabbani highlighted ‘guidelines for revised terms of engagement with the US/NATO/ISAF and general foreign policy.

The guidelines also developing close cooperative relations with neighbours, deepening strategic partnership with China in all its dimensions and actively pursuing the gas pipeline project with Iran.

The recommendations said that Pakistan’s support for the promotion of peace and stability in Afghanistan remains the cornerstone of its foreign policy.

Officials said the parliament will hold a three-day debate and members will be given opportunity to speak and make suggestion. Parliamentary leaders of political parties will first make speeches, to be followed by lawmakers.

The ruling Pakistan Peoples Party and its allies enjoy clear majority and the government will have no problem in taking any decision and if the coalition wants to table any resolution for voting.

Political observers are of the view that the main opposition Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), led by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, is likely to give tough time to the government but the party has also no big difference regarding relations with the U.S. and the West.

The parliament has also received recommendations from the Foreign Ministry and the country’s envoys in important capitals, who had been called for a special meeting to add their input in the redefined foreign policy.

Foreign affairs experts do not expect a major change in the foreign policy but the government insists that foreign policy will no more be formulated by an individual but by the parliament.

The country's top civilian and military leadership met earlier this month and had discussed matters related to the proposed parliamentary review.

President Asif Ali Zardari had presided over the meeting and was attended by Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and then intelligence chief, Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha.

Local media had reported that the meeting had in principle agreed to restore supply line for the NATO troops and MPs of the ruling coalition had been given guidelines to support the decision during the parliament debate. However, a government spokesman had said the meeting had left the decision to the parliament.

Analysts also believe Pakistan is set to open land route for NATO supplies as the country has already allowed NATO supply through its airspace. The country's Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar has hinted restoration of NATO land supply route with certain conditions, including levying of tax on NATO trucks and oil tankers.

Official sources say that the U.S. will, in return, allow the equipment delivery to Pakistan which had been blocked after Islamabad cut off NATO supply line in November.

In the wake of deterioration in relations, Pakistan had earlier refused to welcome top U.S. military leaders and diplomats until parliamentary review is completed, but the meeting also decided to receive top U.S. visitors whenever they want to visit Pakistan and they agreed with the proposed visit of the U.S. Central Command Chief General James Mathis, who is likely to visit later this month.

General Mathis recently told reporters in Washington that he will discus, besides other important issues, the plan of using Pakistan land route for the American troops at the time of withdrawal from Afghanistan. The U.S. plans to withdraw several thousands troops this year as part of its Afghan exit strategy.

Islamic Republic News Agency/IRNA NewsCode: 80047072

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