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Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani addresses to the Joint session of the Parliament held at Parliament House in Islamabad on Thursday, April 12, 2012.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani addresses to the Joint session of the Parliament held at Parliament House in Islamabad. - PPI Photo

ISLAMABAD: In a hard-won consensus, parliament recommended to the government on Thursday to no more let Pakistan serve as conduit of arms to Afghanistan, but gave a green signal for a resumption of non-lethal Nato supplies to the war-ravaged country.

And before the joint sitting of the National Assembly and Senate unanimously adopted revised recommendations of a bipartisan Parliamentary Committee on National Security, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani assured the house that his government would implement its landmark guidelines “in letter and spirit”.

“Pakistani territory including its airspace shall not be used for transportation of arms and ammunition to Afghanistan,” said the committee’s revised report, which dropped clauses of a previous report containing conditions for resuming transportation of supplies through Pakistani land routes for US forces, Nato and a Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) in Afghanistan, effectively leaving the matter to administrative decisions of the Pakistani government.

However, the committee reiterated its earlier call for an “immediate cessation” of US drone attacks aimed at suspected militant hideouts in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, ignoring suggestions made from some lawmakers during a protracted debate to make such a halt a precondition for allowing Nato supplies.

The consensus followed some recent political and diplomatic contacts behind the scenes and more than three weeks of haggling marked by an opposition about-face after the committee headed by Senator Raza Rabbani of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party presented the original consensus report to the joint sitting at its start on March 20.

Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan of the PML-N, and JUI-F leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman had then voiced “serious reservations” about the report and refused participation of their parties in the debate even though the document was signed by their representatives on the committee.

But those hard positions, including a Taliban-like threat by the JUI-F leader to forcibly obstruct Nato supplies, seemed to have melted down after a phone contact between Mr Gilani and PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif, and separate meetings of Maulana Fazlur Rehman with President Asif Ali Zardari and US ambassador Cameron Munter, who had also met the PML-N leader late last month.

“Today Pakistan has crossed another milestone,” the prime minister said before the house voice vote on the report, which he called the first time in Pakistan that “we have brought real and substantive oversight and democratic accountability to our foreign and security policy”.

Both Chaudhry Nisar and the JUI chief, in their speeches before him, had accused the government of not implementing unanimous resolutions of two previous joint sittings of parliament and sought assurances that it would not be the same this time.

Though the prime minister did not agree with the accusations, saying the steps taken in response to the Nov 25-25 US strike against the Pakistani border posts in Mohmand tribal agency were in the light of a previous joint sitting resolution and assured the house that the committee report now would serve as “the guiding framework for this government”.

“We will implement the recommendations both in letter and spirit,” he said.

Regarding Chaudhry Nisar’s demand for assurances about what the government would do if the committee demands like a halt to drone attacks and other violations were not met, Mr Gilani said US President Barack Obama had assured him during a nuclear security summit in Seoul last month that Washington would respect the Pakistani parliament’s review.

Pointing out that the government’s position vis-à-vis dealing with foreign countries would remain weak without parliament’s support, he said: “The solidarity demonstrated today has strengthened our hands.”

“Parliament’s resolution is no small thing,” the prime minister said about the report that was later adopted as a resolution before the sitting was prorogued, and told the house:

“After today’s resolution, your respect will be enhanced the world over. I am fully confident this resolution will be respected.”

But Chaudhry Nisar, in his speech, called the committee consensus as a job only half done and said: “It will become historic only when it is implemented.”

He took pains to emphasise that all parties in the house wanted good relations with the United States but said “it cannot be an imbalanced relationship”.

‘New journey’

Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who in a speech in parliament last month had threatened forcible obstructions to Nato supplies – through his famous remark “we are not wearing bangles” – appeared a lot mellowed on Thursday though he interpreted the revised report as a virtual termination of Pakistan’s strategic alliance with the United States. “The story of the past has gone and we are beginning a new journey.”

Senator Rabbani paid tributes to what he called “farsightedness” of all parties in parliament and their leadership without which, he said, “today’s consensus would have eluded parliament”.

The committee report, called “guidelines for revised terms of engagement with US/Nato/Isaf and general foreign policy” says:

Pakistan’s sovereignty shall not be compromised. The gap between assertion and facts on the ground needs to be qualitatively bridged through effective steps. The relationship with the US should be based on mutual respect for the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of each other.

The government needs to ensure that the principles of an independent foreign policy must be grounded in strict adherence to the Principles of Policy as stated in Article 40 of the Constitution of Pakistan, the UN Charter and observance of international law. The US footprint in Pakistan must be reviewed. This means (i) an immediate cessation of drone attacks inside the territorial borders of Pakistan, (ii) the cessation of infiltration into Pakistani territory on any pretext, including hot pursuit; (iii) Pakistan territory including its airspace shall not be used for transportation of arms and ammunition to Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s nuclear programme and assets, including its safety and security cannot be compromised. The US-Indo civil nuclear agreement has significantly altered the strategic balance in the region, therefore, Pakistan should seek from the US and others a similar treatment/facility. The strategic position of Pakistan vis-à-vis India on the subject of FMCT (Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty) must not be compromised and this principle be kept in view in negotiations on this matter.

Salala attack

Pakistan reaffirms its commitment to the elimination of terrorism and combating extremism in pursuance of its national interest.

The condemnable and unprovoked Nato/Isaf attack resulting in the martyrdom (Shahadat) of 24 Pakistan soldiers, represents a breach of international law and constitutes a blatant violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The Government of Pakistan should seek an unconditional apology from the US for the unprovoked incident dated 25th-26th November, 2011, in Mohmand Agency in addition the following measures be taken:

i). Those held responsible for the Mohmand Agency attack should be brought to justice.

ii). Pakistan should be given assurances that such attacks or any other acts impinging on Pakistan’s sovereignty will not recur.

iii). Ministry of Defence/PAF should formulate new flying rules for areas contiguous to the border.

No verbal agreement regarding national security shall be entered into by the government, its ministries, division, departments, attached departments, autonomous bodies or other organisations with any foreign government or authority. All such agreements or understandings shall cease to have effect forthwith.

No overt or covert operations inside Pakistan shall be permitted.

That for negotiating or renegotiating agreements/ MoU’s pertaining to or dealing with matters of national security, the following procedure shall be adopted:

i). All agreements/MoU’s including military cooperation and logistics, will be circulated to the foreign ministry and all concerned ministries, attached or affiliated organisations and departments for their views;

ii). All agreements/MoU’s will be vetted by the ministry of law, justice and parliamentary affairs;

iii). All agreements/MoU’s will be circulated to the Parliamentary Committee on National Security. The committee shall vet and make recommendations in consultation with the stakeholders and forward the same to the federal cabinet for approval under the rules of business of the federal government.iv). The minister concerned will make a policy statement on the agreements/MoU’s in both houses of parliament.

No private security contractors and/or intelligence operatives shall be allowed.

Pakistan’s losses

Pakistan’s territory will not be provided for the establishment of any foreign bases.

The international community should recognise Pakistan’s colossal human and economic losses and continued sufferings due to the war on terror. In the minimum, greater market access of Pakistan’s exports to the US, Nato countries and global markets should be actively pursued.

In the battle for the hearts and minds an inclusive process based on primacy of dialogue and reconciliation should be adopted. Such processes must respect local customs, traditions, values and religious beliefs.

(a). There is no military solution to the Afghan conflict and efforts must be undertaken to promote a genuine national reconciliation in an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process.

(b). To strengthen security along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, including the cross-border flow of criminal elements, narcotics and weapons, the feasibility of additional measures including electronic surveillance may be evaluated and the process of local joint jirgas should be encouraged according to local customs and traditions.

That Pakistani territory shall not be used for any kind of attacks on other countries and all foreign fighters, if found, shall be expelled from our soil. Likewise, Pakistan does not expect the soil of other countries to be used against it.

The government needs to review the present focus of foreign policy keeping in view the aspirations of the people of Pakistan. It needs to establish a balance by emphasising links with our traditional allies and building new relationships for diversifying the sources of economic, military and political support. In this regard it may take the following amongst other steps:

Regional peace

i). Pakistan’s foreign policy must continue to focus on creating a peaceful environment in the region to pursue the goals of economic development and social progress;

ii).The dialogue process with India should be continued in a purposeful and result-oriented manner on the basis of mutual respect and mutual interest, including efforts for the solution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the UN resolutions;

iii). Special attention must continue to be paid to developing close cooperative relations with neighbouring countries;

iv). The strategic partnership with China must be deepened in all its dimensions;

v). The relationship with the European Union should be strengthened and enhanced in all spheres;

vi). Relationship with the Russian Federation should be further strengthened;vii). Pakistan’s support for the promotion of peace and stability in Afghanistan remains the cornerstone of its foreign policy;

viii). Pakistan’s special relationship with the Islamic world should be reinforced;

ix). Pakistan’s full membership of SCO should be actively pursued;

x). Pakistan’s bilateral relationships in the region and its institutional partnership with Asean and GCC must be upgraded and strengthened; and

xi). Pakistan should actively pursue the gas pipeline projects with Iran and Turkmenistan.