ISLAMABAD: Pakistani lawmakers have opened a debate on the terms of the nation’s re-engagement with the United States after ties were all but severed following deadly American air-strikes on Pakistani troops in November.
“Pakistan wants to pursue good relations with every country, Pakistan also wants to pursue its own national interest,” foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar told reporters after the session.
The session on Tuesday, being attended by both the upper and lower houses and chaired by the recently appointed Senate Chairman Nayyar Bokhari, could help determine whether the country’s reopens US and Nato supply lines to Afghanistan.
The parliament was also briefed on the details of Pakistan’s sensitive defence pacts in an in-camera session.
The parliamentary commission has also demanded an end to American drone strikes inside the country and is seeking an unconditional apology for the Nato attack that killed 24 soldiers in Pakistan.
Senator Raza Rabbani, chairman of a parliamentary committee on national security, outlined its recommendations in that those responsible for the attack should be brought to justice and the recommendations also said that any use of Pakistani bases or airspace by foreign forces would require parliament’s approval.
“This is the first time that the parliament of Pakistan has been given responsibility to frame foreign policy,” said Rabbani.
“The US must review its footprints in Pakistan,” he said. “This means the cessation of drone strikes inside Pakistan.”
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.
Nisar criticised the government for keeping the report “secret” and failing to give party leaders time to discuss it before tabling it in parliament.
The parliament, which will now meet on Monday, will debate for several days and then vote on whether to accept the report.
Gen. James Mattis, commander of US Central Command, said earlier this month he expected to visit Pakistan in mid-to-late March to talk with leaders about reopening the supply routes. His would be the first trip by a US military official since the airstrikes, and will be taken as a high-level sign that Pakistan’s army leadership wants to re-engage.