Pakistan Parliamentary Committee Demands End of Cross-Border Strikes

( File photo)

Pakistan Parliamentary Committee Demands End of Cross-Border Strikes

Drone strikes must end, US military's 'Pakistan footprint' rethought, say lawmakers

Following widespread public outrage over civilian casualties and in direct response to a US/NATO raid last November that resulted in the death of 24 its soldiers, a Pakistan parliamentary committee in Islamabad has called for the end of drone strikes by the CIA and a promise that no further 'cross-border' military incursions -- even in 'hot pursuit' would occur.

The demands were part of a list prepared by the committee ahead of upcoming strategic partnership talks between the US and Pakistan. Other recommendations included a proposed levy on all supplies traveling through Pakistan on their way to Afghanistan to support US/NATO military operations and a demand for an 'unconditional apology' from NATO for the November incident.

Raza Rabbani, chairman of a parliamentary committee on national security, who outlined the committee's recommendations said, "The US must review its footprints in Pakistan," he said. "This means the cessation of drone strikes inside Pakistan." Some see the demands as simply a negotiating tactic to receive more lucrative concessions from Western forces.

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The Associated Press: Pakistani parliament says no to US drones

The drone strikes are unpopular among Pakistanis and have long been publicly opposed by the Pakistani army and government, which maintain they fan support for militancy even as they kill insurgents also targeting them. But their frequency has dropped significantly in recent months, which makes them less politically explosive.

The issue is muddied, however, by the fact that in private the army has been known to approve at least some of the strikes, and provide intelligence on them [...] American officials rarely talk about the program in public or answer questions from reporters about it.

"The is neither the first time, not will it be last, that the parliament has demanded an end to drone strikes," said Samina Ahmed, who heads the International Crisis Group in Pakistan. "This is more performance than substance. The military is still the key actor as far as security policy is concerned."

She said the security establishment had "no expectation" that the drone strikes would end. [...] Washington is seen as unlikely to permanently stop them, regardless of what parliament says, which has often issued resolutions against the attacks.

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The Dawn in Pakistan reports on the committee's recommendations:

The Ministry of Defense and US/NATO/ISAF were also told to draft new flying routes for areas close to the border.

The panel recommended that "Pakistan should seek an unconditional apology from the US for the unprovoked incident" and said "taxes and other charges must be levied on all goods importing in or transiting through Pakistan".

Rabbani said that if and when supplies to foreign forces in Afghanistan are resumed, the shipments must be taxed. He insisted that parliament should approve any future use of Pakistani bases or air space by foreign forces.

The commission said that the re-opening of the US/NATO supply route must be based on a thorough revision of the terms of conditions of the agreement, which shall be subject to strict monitoring within Pakistan on anti-entry, transit and exit points.

It was also suggested that no verbal agreement regarding national security shall be entered into by the government or any other ministry or department.

The commission said that no overt or covert operation inside Pakistan shall be tolerated. It also suggested that there should be prior permission and transparency on the number and presence of foreign intelligence operatives in Pakistan.

The commission recommended to the government that Pakistan should actively pursue the gas pipeline project with Iran.

It was also recommended that 50 per cent of US/NATO/ISAF containers may be handled through Pakistan Railways.

The session was adjourned until Monday on Opposition Leader Chaudry Nisar Ali Khan's request to give lawmakers time to study the recommendations.

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