US given Dec 11 deadline to vacate Shamsi airbase
By: Iftikhar A. Khan
ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar told a Senate committee on Wednesday that the decision to get the Shamsi airbase vacated from US troops was irreversible.
And in Karachi, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani made a similar statement and said the United States had been given the deadline of December 11 to abide by the decision.
Ms Khar also said that Pakistan would stick to its decision to boycott the Bonn conference on Afghanistan.
She regretted that red lines had been repeatedly crossed. “Enough is enough.” The government would not tolerate any incident of the spilling of even a single drop (of blood) of its citizens.
She said the decision taken in reaction to the Nato attack was meant to protect national security and sovereignty. “There will be no compromise on national interest,” she said at a meeting of the Senate’s Standing Committee on Foreign Relations.
Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir also attended the meeting.
Ms Khar said Pakistan had been playing a responsible role for peace in the region and rendered more sacrifices than any other country in the war on terror.
She ruled out the possibility of reopening the Nato supply line. She said a mere apology would not work because Pakistan not only lost its soldiers but its sovereignty had also come under attack.
Ms Khar said the government was in the process of reviewing its relations with the US and coalition forces. “We are a sovereign state and we will not allow our sovereignty to be tainted. Pakistan’s role in the war on terror must not be overlooked.”
About the memogate controversy, she said the Foreign Office had no record of the alleged memo. She stressed that the government had not sought any help from the former US military chief for reining in the army.
It was a fabricated document, she said, adding that concocted stories had been published against Pakistan in the past as well.
According to her, Mansoor Ejaz, the US businessman of Pakistani origin, had targeted the Pakistan Army and ISI by claiming
to have transmitted the memo to Admiral Mike Mullen.
She said Prime Minister Gilani Yousuf Raza had decided in national interest to remove Ambassador Husain Haqqani.
The foreign minister said a number of questions had been raised over the alleged role of Mr Haqqani in the scandal and he was summoned to explain his position. The matter would be fully investigated, she said, adding that an ambassador could not do anything without the permission of the Foreign Office.
Members of the Senate committee said the government should raise the issue of Nato strikes in the United Nations and take the parliament into confidence. The committee’s chairman, Senator Salim Saifullah Khan, said Pakistan should not lose the opportunity to inform the world about its viewpoint.
The committee expressed reservations over former foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s statement about security of Pakistan’s nuclear assets and said it was against the integrity of the country.
Talking to reporters, Mr Saifullah said the memogate scandal had tarnished the country’s image and all members of the committee wanted the government to take action and punish those involved in the conspiracy.
He said the government was avoiding to adopt strong stance to get the attacks stopped. He said the committee members strongly condemned the Nato air strikes and praised the government’s decision to block the Nato supply lines and get the Shamsi airbase vacated.
He said it was beyond comprehension that the Nato strikes continued for more than two hours and the army did not respond.