Pakistan's Overdue Review of its Relations with the United States
Pakistan-U.S. Relations: Commission Calls For End To Drone Attacks, Demands Apology For Deadly Airstrikes By Zarar Khan, Huffington Post, March 20, 2012
ISLAMABAD — A Pakistani parliamentary commission demanded Tuesday an end to American drone attacks inside the country and an apology for deadly U.S. airstrikes in November as part of a review of its near-severed relations with the United States.
The commission was tasked with reviewing ties with Washington after errant airstrikes four months ago killed 24 Pakistani soldiers and prompted Islamabad to close its borders to U.S. and NATO supply lines to neighboring Afghanistan.
The incident presented an opportunity for the army – furious at the Americans and under public pressure following the U.S. raid on Osama bin Laden last year that was seen in Pakistan as a violation of the country's sovereignty – to gain a negotiating advantage in its turbulent relationship with Washington.
American officials hope the oft-delayed review will lead to the reopening of the supply lines.
"The U.S. must review its footprints in Pakistan," commission head Raza Rabbani said, reading the recommendations. "This means the cessation of drone strikes inside Pakistan."
This demand could complicate efforts to rebuild the relationship. However, the commission didn't say the supply lines should be permanently closed, as many Pakistanis would like, but rather that the government should charge the U.S. and NATO more money for the privilege.
Washington wants to rebuild its relationship with Pakistan, whose cooperation is seen as key to the success of striking a deal with insurgents in neighboring Afghanistan. Also, the supply lines are important for transporting fuel and other non-lethal goods to troops, and will be crucial to trucking out equipment as the U.S. draws down its forces.
The joint session of parliament was expected to immediately debate the recommendations, but that was shelved after opposition leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said his party needed time to study them. He hinted the party could reject them, possibly causing more delays to U.S. hopes of a speedy resumption of ties. The issue is to be debated again on Monday.
The army, and to a lesser extent the civilian government, will ultimately decide whether to restore ties with the United States, but parliament could influence the decision. Analysts say placing the issue before lawmakers was to give the government and the army some political cover, so they could claim the support of the country before quietly reopening the supply routes.
"If drone attacks really are stopped and the national sovereignty is really ensured we can approve the recommendations," said opposition leader Khan. "Otherwise we are not ready to give any authority to this government to take decisions under the garb of parliament."
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US will respect Pakistan parliament’s decision: Munter - Express Tribune
Pakistani Parliament Demands End to U.S. Drone Strikes - New York Times
Pakistan's Zardari seeks 'meaningful' US relations - AFP
Tough terms set for US re-engagement - The Nation
A report without substance - Express Tribune
For Background, see
U.S.-Pakistan Relations: The Year Past, The Year Ahead (Video) - Council on Foreign Relations
How Obama Can Fix U.S.-Pakistani Relations - By Hassan Abbas, Foreign Affairs