Pakistan demands US apology on air attackAgence France-Presse . Islamabad
Pakistani lawmakers on Tuesday demanded an American apology and taxes on NATO convoys in recommendations put to parliament in a key step towards repairing a major crisis in relations with the US.
Parliament will debate the recommendations next week in a probable precursor to reopening NATO supply lines into Afghanistan suspended for nearly four months and to putting the Pakistani-US alliance on a more pragmatic footing.
Islamabad closed its Afghan border to NATO after US air strikes killed 24 soldiers in November, plunging relations with Washington to an all-time low after Pakistan was humiliated by a US raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May.
Pakistan was incensed by the American refusal to apologise for the November 26 killings and besides shutting its border, ordered US personnel to leave a base reportedly used in America’s drone war against al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
But the anger has dissipated and experts expect the alliance to be recrafted along more pragmatic lines involving fewer US drone strikes against Islamist militants in Pakistan and hopes of Pakistan facilitating Afghan peace efforts.
‘Pakistan wants to pursue good relations with every country. Pakistan also wants to pursue its own national interest,’ the foreign minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, told reporters.
The military is considered the chief arbiter of foreign policy but many see the parliamentary debate as setting a vital precedent by consulting elected political leaders, if only to protect the military from later recriminations.
‘This is the first time that the parliament of Pakistan has been given responsibility to frame foreign policy,’ said Senator Raza Rabbani, head of the parliamentary committee on national security that drew up the recommendations.
The document calls the November strikes a ‘blatant violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty’ and said Islamabad should seek ‘an unconditional apology from the US for the unprovoked incident’.
It said ‘taxes and other charges must be levied on all goods importing in or transiting through Pakistan’ — which experts have estimated could amount to $1 million a day — and, in a sub clause, an end to American drone strikes.
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