ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani parliament Saturday demanded an end to US drone strikes on its territory and called for an independent probe into the raid by US troops that killed Osama bin Laden to ensure there is no repeat.
The strongly worded message came after a joint sitting of parliament lasting more than 10 hours, during which lawmakers debated the “situation arising from unilateral US action in Abbottabad” which targeted bin Laden.
Pakistan’s intelligence chief Ahmad Shuja Pasha, chief of military operations and deputy chief of air staff, briefed the lawmakers in Islamabad.
Describing the continued drone strikes as “unacceptable”, parliament said in a resolution: “Such drone attacks must be stopped forthwith, failing which the government will be constrained to consider taking necessary steps including withdrawal of (the) transit facility allowed to Nato.”
Most supplies and equipment required by foreign troops in Afghanistan are shipped through the main northwestern border crossing, which comes under frequent militant attacks.
US strikes doubled last year, with more than 100 drone operations killing over 670 people, according to an AFP tally, and the CIA has said the covert programme has severely disrupted al Qaeda’s leadership.
A US drone strike in North Waziristan tribal region near the Afghan border on Thursday killed three militants.
It was the fourth such attack reported in Pakistan’s tribal badlands on the Afghan border, which Washington has dubbed the global headquarters of al Qaeda, since US Navy SEALs killed bin Laden in Abbottabad.
US drone strikes inflame anti-American feeling in Pakistan, which has worsened since a CIA contractor shot dead two Pakistani men in a busy Lahore street in January, and over the perceived impunity of the bin Laden raid.
The lawmakers also called on the government “to appoint an independent commission on the Abbottabad operation, fix responsibility and recommend necessary measures to ensure that such an incident does not recur”.
“The composition, modalities of the commission will be settled after consultations between Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and leader of the opposition,” said the resolution.
Pakistan’s opposition leader Nawaz Sharif had on Wednesday demanded an independent inquiry over bin Laden and this month’s US raid that killed him, rejecting an internal military probe ordered by the state.
The resolution criticised the US raid and said “unilateral actions cannot advance the global cause of elimination of terrorism,” adding that any repeat could have “dire consequences for peace and security in the region and the world.”
It called on the government to “revisit and review its terms of engagement with the United States, with a view to ensuring that Pakistan’s national interests are fully respected and accommodated.”
Parliament also “affirmed full confidence in the defence forces of Pakistan” and highlighted the importance of international cooperation to defeat terrorism “on the basis of a true partnership approach, based on equality, mutual respect and mutual trust.”
The joint sitting was held in camera under tight security. Reporters were not allowed to cover the proceedings.
Pakistanis have been outraged at the perceived impunity of the US raid, while asking whether their military was too incompetent to know bin Laden was living close to a major forces academy, or, worse, conspired to protect him.
Under growing domestic pressure to punish Washington, Pakistan’s civilian government said Thursday it would review counter-terrorism cooperation with the United States.