No more drone strikes, na­tional panel tells U.S.

De­mands apol­ogy for deadly NATO at­tack in Novem­ber

The Washington Times Daily - - World - BY ASHISH KUMAR SEN

A Pak­istani par­lia­men­tary com­mis­sion on Tues­day de­manded an end to U.S. drone strikes in­side the coun­try and an un­con­di­tional apol­ogy for a NATO at­tack that killed 24 Pak­istani sol­diers in Novem­ber.

“The U.S. must re­view its foot­prints in Pak­istan,” said a re­port from the com­mis­sion, which was es­tab­lished to draw up new terms of en­gage­ment with the United States.

“No overt or covert op­er­a­tions in­side Pak­istan shall be tol­er­ated,” it added.

Drone strikes in the bor­der ar­eas of Pak­istan and Afghanistan have in­creased un­der the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion. U.S. of­fi­cials say those strikes have been ef­fec­tive in elim­i­nat­ing ter­ror­ists.

“There’s plenty of ev­i­dence, in­clud­ing doc­u­ments from the hand of [Osama] bin Laden him­self, that shows how dev­as­tat­ing these op­er­a­tions have been to al Qaeda and their mil­i­tant al­lies,” said a U.S. of­fi­cial who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity.

How­ever, Raza Rab­bani, chair­man of the par­lia­men­tary com­mis­sion, said the strikes rad­i­cal­ize the lo­cal pop­u­la­tion and fuel anti-amer­i­can sen­ti­ment.

“Drones have be­come a huge emo­tional is­sue for au­thor­i­ties in Pak­istan,” said Shuja Nawaz, di­rec­tor of the At­lantic Coun­cil’s South Asia Cen­ter.

Pak­istan kicked U.S. troops out of the Shamsi air base, where un­manned Preda­tor drone op­er­a­tions had been run, af­ter NATO strikes on two Pak­istani bor­der posts in Novem­ber in cir­cum­stances still un­der dis­pute. NATO says its he­li­copters acted in self-de­fense when they first came un­der fire in Pak­istan’s Mohmand area, but Pak­istan de­nies the al­le­ga­tion.

Pak­istan also shut a land route used to sup­ply NATO troops in Afghanistan.

The par­lia­men­tary com­mis­sion sought an un­con­di­tional apol­ogy for the at­tack and pro­posed an in­crease in fees that NATO pays for sup­plies sent through Pak­istan.

U.S. of­fi­cials have been press­ing Pak­istan to re­open the sup­ply line.

The U.s.-pak­istan re­la­tion­ship hit bot­tom fol­low­ing a se­ries of in­ci­dents, in­clud­ing the ar­rest of CIA contractor Ray­mond Davis in Jan­uary 2011 for killing two Pak­ista­nis in the east­ern city of Lahore, the death of al Qaeda leader bin Laden in a U.S. com­mando raid in the Pak­istani gar­ri­son city of Ab­bot­tabad in May, and the NATO at­tack on the bor­der posts.

“The tragedy at Mohmand re­ally served as an end-line trig­ger that called for a fun­da­men­tal re­set” in the re­la­tion­ship, Pak­istani Am­bas­sador Sherry Rehman told an au­di­ence at the U.S. In­sti­tute of Peace in Washington last month.

How­ever, the re­la­tion­ship will re­main stuck if the Pak­istani gov­ern­ment stands be­hind the de­mand that drone strikes be halted as the ba­sis for any “re­set,” said Bruce Riedel of the Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion, who led a re­view of U. S. pol­icy to­ward Afghanistan and Pak­istan for Pres­i­dent Obama.

“The likely next U.S. step will be to turn re­luc­tantly to a more ad­ver­sar­ial re­la­tion­ship with Pak­istan,” he said. “We will still seek to en­gage Pak­istan, but we will also seek to con­tain the worst ex­cesses of the army.”

Pak­istan’s par­lia­ment sus­pended un­til Mon­day the spe­cial joint ses­sion to de­bate the fu­ture of the re­la­tion­ship with the United States.

The re­la­tion­ship in­creas­ingly will be af­fected by do­mes­tic con­sid­er­a­tions, Mr. Nawaz said.

“This is go­ing to be the new nor­mal,” he added.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pak­istani In­te­rior Min­is­ter Rehman Ma­lik (cen­ter) leaves af­ter at­tend­ing a par­lia­men­tary joint ses­sion in Islamabad on Tues­day. A par­lia­men­tary com­mis­sion has de­manded an end to Amer­i­can drone strikes in­side Pak­istan.

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