No more drones
The Pakistani parliament opened a debate on Tuesday about recommendations by a parliamentary committee on national security that was set up amid public fury over air strikes that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November.
Coming at a time when relations were already extremely tense after a raid on a compound in Pakistan that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and the detention of a CIA contractor who had killed two Pakistanis, the drone attack on November 26 in Mohmand tribal district plunged US-Pakistani relations to a new low.
Pakistan halted overland supplies to US-led NATO troops in Afghanistan and also requested US personnel leave a base that had been used to launch drone attacks from.
On Tuesday, the parliamentary committee said the attack had been "a blatant violation of Pakistan's sovereignty and territorial integrity" and called for "an unconditional apology from the US for the unprovoked incident." It also urged that all drone attacks inside Pakistan cease.
Hundreds of people have been killed in dozens of drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan where Taliban and al Qaeda militants have taken refuge, with Pakistan objecting several times.
A great sacrifice
"Pakistan should be given assurances that such attacks or any other attack impinging on Pakistan's sovereignty will not reoccur and NATO/ISAF/the US will take effective measures to avoid any such violations," the chairman of the committee Senator Raza Rabbani said as he presented his report to a joint parliamentary session.
"It needs to be realized that drone attacks are counterproductive because of the loss of valuable lives and property - that radicalizes the local population, creates support for the terrorists and fuels anti-American sentiment," he pointed out.
The US Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter told Deutsche Welle that he understood how Pakistanis felt.
"There's an increasing understanding of the sacrifice that Pakistan has made. We understand that tens of thousands of Pakistanis have died in this war," he said. "And we hope that it's understood by the Pakistani people and the Pakistani leadership that we appreciate the work that you’ve done."
He said that he was in Peshawar to talk to those in charge of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas about "national issues, as well as economic and assistance issues at a regional level."
"We want to deal across the board with everyone and we just want to make sure there’s a proper balance."
'No military solution to Afghanistan'
On Tuesday, the panel reiterated Pakistan's commitment to fighting terror and extremism, pointing out nonetheless that Pakistan's sovereignty should not be compromised by "hot pursuit or boots on Pakistani territory."
The committee recommended backing the process of peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan, adding that there is "no military solution" to the conflict. It also suggested that security along the shared border between Afghanistan and Pakistan be tightened to stem the flow of criminals, weapons and drugs.
The panel also said that "taxes and other charges must be levied on all goods importing in or transiting through Pakistan" - an arrangement that could earn Pakistan up to one million US dollars a day. Rabbani also said a new agreement had to be negotiated with NATO before allowing the supply route to reopen.
The Senate and the National Assembly will debate the draft recommendations in a three-day joint session before voting on whether to accept them. The parliament next meets on March 26.
Author: Anne Thomas (dpa, AFP, Reuters)
Editor: Manasi Gopalakrishnan