Pakistan approves new guidelines for US ties

Parliament on Thursday unanimously approved new guidelines on relations with the United States which include a ban on transporting weapons through the country to Afghanistan.
The recommendations drawn up by a national security committee also include a call for an end to drone attacks in Pakistani territory and an unconditional apology for US air strikes in November that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.
Western officials were keen for Islamabad to commit to reopening NATO supply lines closed in the wake of the air strikes before a summit in Chicago next month.
The guidelines were silent on the resumption of NATO convoys but said Pakistani territory must not be used for the transport of arms and ammunition to Afghanistan — a demand of several political parties including opposition.
Pakistan was incensed by the American refusal to apologise for the November 26 killings and besides shutting its border, it ordered US personnel to leave a base reportedly used in America’s drone war against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
The guidelines, backed by THE parliament after weeks of debate by the committee, demand that those responsible for the air strikes be brought to justice.
Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani told parliament his government would implement the recommendations in “letter and spirit”. “Our partnership cannot be at the cost of our sovereignty or territorial integrity,” he said.
“We want to proactively engage with our international partners. Our resolve to combat extremism and terrorism remains unshakeable.”
Drone strikes are resented in Pakistan as violations of sovereignty, despite the fact that they have at times worked in Islamabad’s favour, such as killing Pakistani Taliban founder Baitullah Mehsud in August 2009.
The 14-point framework said no foreign fighters or bases should be allowed in Pakistan, nor should Pakistani territory should be used for attacks on other countries.
The military is considered the chief arbiter of foreign policy and Gilani said the parliamentary consultation on the proposals marked an important watershed.
“For the first time in Pakistan’s history, we have brought real and substantive oversight and democratic accountability to our foreign and security policy,” he said.
Islamabad’s closure of the Afghan border to NATO following the air strikes plunged relations with Washington to an all-time low after Pakistan was humiliated by a US raid that killed Osama bin Laden last May.
The proposals backed peace and reconciliation efforts in Afghanistan, saying there was “no military solution” to the Afghan conflict.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the United States had “seen that the Pakistani parliament has approved” the 14-point framework and stressed that the US sought “enduring” relations with Islamabad.
“We respect the seriousness with which parliament’s review of US-Pakistan relations has been conducted,” she said in a brief statement. “We look forward to discussing these policy recommendations with Pakistan.”
The United States has previously called on Pakistan to play a constructive role in nascent peace efforts in Afghanistan, where its support is considered vital given its history of relations with Taliban insurgents.
Pakistan has long accused the United States of taking its support in the war for granted and the guidelines called on the international community to recognise the country’s “colossal human and economic losses”.
The United States sent its condolences over the November air strikes, but stopped short of an apology. NATO expressed regret over what it called a “tragic unintended incident”.

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