ISLAMABAD, June 11: Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani interrupted the presentation of the new budget in the National Assembly on Wednesday to condemn a deadly air strike in Pakistan’s Mohmand tribal area by US-led coalition forces in Afghanistan while the foreign ministry said a strong protest had been lodged with them.
Mr Gilani, responding to a point of order raised by an opposition member, said his government would take “a stand for the sovereignty, dignity and self-respect” of the country as he reacted to the late Tuesday night attack on a paramilitary Frontier Corps border checkpoint that the foreign ministry said killed 11 personnel and wounded several others.
Opposition member Amir Muqam, who is also the president Pakistan Muslim League-Q, NWFP chapter, said there were reports of 60 to 70 casualties after Speaker Fehmida Mirza allowed him to raise the matter after some initial hesitation before minister in charge for finance Naveed Qamar could begin his speech to unveil the present government’s first budget, for fiscal 2008-09.
“We strongly condemn it,” the prime minister said, adding: “We will not allow violation of our soil.”
Mr Gilani said he had learnt of the attack while presiding over a cabinet meeting that approved the budget earlier in the day and immediately asked the foreign secretary — since Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi was in Paris to attend a conference on Afghanistan — to make a protest to the coalition forces about the third deadly coalition strike inside the Pakistani tribal region bordering Afghanistan within seven weeks.
A foreign ministry statement also said the Pakistani government “strongly condemns” the attack on the Fontier Corps’ Gora Prai checkpost that it said resulted “in the Shahadat (martyrdom) of 11 Pakistani security personnel including an officer and injuries to several”.
“The attack was unprovoked and a gross violation of international border between Pakistan and Afghanistan,” it said and added: “The senseless use of air power against a Pakistani border post by coalition forces is totally unacceptable. It constitutes a blatant and wilful negation of the huge sacrifices that Pakistan has made in its endeavour to combat terrorism.”
The statement said the attack “tends to undermine the very basis of our cooperation with the coalition forces and warrants a re-think on their part of the consequences that could ensue from such rash acts”.
It said: “It is imperative that international forces operating in Afghanistan refrain from violating Pakistan’s territory and attacking Pakistani border posts and firing on our troops. The coalition forces must fully investigate this incident and share their findings with us. Our forces reserve the right to take all necessary actions to protect our citizens and soldiers and defend our territory.”
The statement said a strong protest “is being lodged” with the coalition through diplomatic channels.
Pakistan’s alliance with the United States in the so-called “war on terrorism” came under severe criticism in the National Assembly last week during a debate on a May 14 coalition missile strike allegedly by pilot-less drones that killed at least 14 civilians in Damadola village of the Bajaur Agency of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
One Pakistani security official was killed at a Bajaur border post in an April 23 intrusion.
A ministry statement issued later said US ambassador Anne W. Patterson was called to the foreign office to receive a strong protest.
“It was underscored that the shahadat of 11 Pakistani troops and injuries to several caused by this attack was totally unacceptable,” the statement said. “It was a matter of great consternation and concern and had deeply incensed the people of Pakistan. The need for a high-level investigation into the circumstances of this incident was also underscored,” it said.