Pak seeks end to drone strikes, civil nuke deal like Indo-US

Pak seeks end to drone strikes, civil nuke deal like Indo-US

 Setting tough conditions for re-engagement with the US, a Pakistani Parliamentary commission today demanded an end to CIA-operated drone strikes and a civil nuclear deal similar to the Indo-US agreement besides 38 other demands.

Asking US to "review its footsteps in Pakistan", the panel report was put forth as the Pakistani Parliament began a crucial joint sitting to debate the recommendations for a revamp of the country's foreign policy and ties with the US.

The joint session of the Senate and National Assembly, summoned by President Asif Ali Zardari, will debate 40 recommendations framed by the Parliamentary Committee on National Security in the wake of a cross-border NATO air strike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November.

Unveiling the recommendations in parliament, the Committee's chief Raza Rabbani said the "US must review its footsteps in Pakistan".

He added: "This means cessation of drone attacks inside the territorial borders of Pakistan, no hot pursuit or boots on Pakistani territory and the activity of foreign private security contractors must be transparent and subject to Pakistani law".

The parliamentary panel's recommendations contended that there could be no compromise on Pakistan's nuclear programme and assets, including their safety and security.

The recommendations further claimed that the Indo-US civil nuclear agreement had "significantly altered strategic balance in the region".

"Therefore, Pakistan should seek from the US and others a similar treatment/facility.
"The strategic position of Pakistan vis-a-vis India on the subject of Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty must not be compromised and this principle be kept in view in negotiations on this matter," Rabbani said.

Several recommendations related to the revamp of Pakistan's overall foreign policy, including the country's relations with India, China and the Islamic world.

The specific recommendation related to India said: "The dialogue process with India should be continued in a purposeful and result-oriented manner on the basis of mutual respect and mutual interest, including efforts for the solution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with UN resolutions".

The unprecedented parliamentary review of bilateral relations was ordered by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani in the aftermath of the NATO air strike.

Even before that, Pakistan-US ties were buffeted by a string of crises last year, including the gunning down of two Pakistani men by a CIA contractor in Lahore and the killing of Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden by US special forces in the garrison town of Abbottabad.

The outcome of the joint session, expected to continue for three days, has been awaited anxiously by the US because of its potential fallout on the US-led war on terrorism and Washington's plans to pull out its troops in Afghanistan by 2014.

US-Pakistan ties have virtually been on hold since the NATO air strike and Islamabad has turned down requests for visits by top American officials like Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman.

The US described the NATO attack as unintentional but this stand was rejected by the Pakistani military.

The parliamentary committee's recommendations reaffirmed Pakistan's "commitment to the elimination of terrorism and combating extremism in pursuance of its national interest" but called for bringing to justice those responsible for the "condemnable and unprovoked" NATO air strike.
The Pakistan government should seek an "unconditional apology from the US for the unprovoked incident". "Pakistan should be given assurances that such attacks or any other attacks impinging on Pakistan’s sovereignty will not reoccur and that NATO/ISAF/US will take effective measures to avoid any such violations," the recommendations said.

"Any use of Pakistani bases or airspace by foreign forces would require parliamentary approval" and Pakistan's Defence Ministry and ISAF, NATO and US should "draft new flying rules for areas contiguous to the border", the recommendations said.

Pakistan's top civil and military leadership have held two meetings in the run-up to the joint session of parliament to review and fine-tune the recommendations.

The issue has also been reviewed separately by the military top brass, which plays a key role in shaping foreign policy, particularly relations with the US and India.

The Pakistan People's Party-led government, which took office in March 2008, has by and large followed arrangements made during the regime of military ruler Pervez Musharraf for ties with the US, especially for the war on terrorism.

However, opposition political parties had called for a review of Pakistan-US ties, because of public anger over US drone strikes in the country's tribal areas, the US raid against bin Laden and the NATO air strike in November.

Following the air strike, Pakistan shut down NATO supply routes and forced the US to vacate Shamsi airbase, believed to have been a hub for CIA-operated drones that were used to target militants.