Parliament redefines relations with US
* Demands end to drone strikes, hot pursuit inside Pakistan
* Says Pakistan’s sovereignty shall not be compromised
* Rejects transportation of arms and ammunition to Afghanistan through Pakistan
* Seeks unconditional US apology over Salala incident
* Supports gas pipeline projects with Iran and Turkmenistan
By Tanveer Ahmed
ISLAMABAD: After over three weeks of hectic and behind-the-scenes efforts, a joint sitting of parliament on Thursday finally succeeded in approving the recommendations of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS) on new rules of engagement with the US, while leaving the resumption of crucial NATO supplies issue vague.
The revised recommendations of PCNS presented in the joint session by the committee chairman, Senator Mian Raza Rabbani, laid emphasis on respect for the country’s national sovereignty when it declared that sovereignty of Pakistan shall not be compromised and relationship with the US should be based on mutual respect for sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of each other.
The 14-point recommendations suggested that the US footprint in Pakistan must be reviewed. This would mean an immediate cessation of drone attacks inside the country, cessation of infiltration into Pakistani territory on any pretext, including hot pursuit. It was also stressed that Pakistani territory and its airspace shall not be used for transportation of arms and ammunition to the NATO forces in Afghanistan. The lack of explicit recommendations on NATO supplies is believed to have been on the pressure of opposition parties.
The recommendations also say that Pakistan’s nuclear programme and assets, and their safety and security cannot be compromised. It was noted that the US-India civil nuclear agreement has significantly altered strategic balance in the region; therefore Pakistan should seek from the US and others a similar deal.
While condemning the unprovoked NATO attack on Salala border posts on November 26 last year as a breach of international law and a blatant violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, the joint session said Pakistan should seek an unconditional apology from the US over the incident. At least 24 soldiers had been killed in the attack. The Ministry of Defence and the Pakistan Air Force were asked to formulate new flying rules for areas contiguous to the border.
The joint sitting said that no verbal agreement regarding national security shall be entered into by the government, its ministries, divisions, departments, attached departments, autonomous bodies or other organisations with any foreign government or authority, and all such agreements or understandings shall cease to have effect forthwith. All future agreements regarding national security will require approval of PCNS and cabinet.
The session resolved that no private security contractors and/or intelligence operatives shall be allowed in Pakistan, and the country’s territory will not be provided for the establishment of any foreign base. Parliament also stressed that the international community should recognise Pakistan’s colossal human and economic losses and continued suffering due to the war on terror, and demanded greater market access for Pakistan’s exports to the US, NATO countries and global markets.
The parliamentarians stressed that the country’s foreign policy must continue to focus on creating a peaceful environment in the region in pursuance of the goals of economic development and social progress. It was emphasised that the dialogue process with India should be continued in a purposeful and result-oriented manner on the basis of mutual respect and interest, and efforts should be made for the solution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with UN resolutions.
The joint session called for developing close cooperative relations with the country’s neighbours and enhancing special relationship with the Muslim world. It also highlighted the need to deepen the strategic partnership with China in all its dimensions, and also sought strengthening of ties with Russia. The amended recommendations also called for actively pursuing the gas pipeline project with Iran.
After the presentation of the recommendations to the joint sitting, Leader of the Opposition Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and JUI-F chief Fazlur Rehman raised certain points, which were replied to by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani.
The opposition leader said his party wanted to include the issue of Dr Aafia Siddiqui in the recommendations. He said that the government should not only take special measures for her release but also raise voice against atrocities meted out to Pakistani citizens, particularly in the US. Nisar said that the document of the recommendation would be only meaningful if the government implemented it.