Pakistan panel demands U.S. apology on air attack

By Agence France-Presse
Tuesday, March 20, 2012 7:41 EDT
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A Pakistani soldier (AFP)
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A Pakistan parliamentary committee on Tuesday demanded an unconditional apology from the United States for a November air attack on its border post that killed 24 soldiers.

Parliament opened a debate on recommendations by the parliamentary committee on national security, which called the attack a “blatant violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

The process is considered key to shifting relations with the US onto a more solid footing after they slumped to their lowest level in years; the reopening of NATO supply lines and resumption of high-level American diplomatic visits.

The panel recommended that Pakistan seeks “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”.

Experts estimate Pakistan could earn $1 million a day from the arrangement.

The committee also called for cessation of drone attacks inside Pakistan and reiterated the country’s commitment to fighting terror and extremism.

The recommendations were tabled by the committee’s head Raza Rabbani at a joint sitting of both houses.

Parliament, which next meets on March 26, will debate the recommendations for several days before voting on whether to accept them.

“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 committee was asked to review the US alliance amid public fury over the US air strikes that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers on November 26, leading Pakistan to shut NATO supply routes and evict US personnel from an air base.

The deadly incident capped a disastrous year for relations already seriously strained in 2011 by the covert US raid which killed Osama bin Laden and the detention of a CIA contractor who killed two Pakistanis a few months earlier.

Urging the international community to recognise Pakistan’s “colossal human and economic losses and continued suffering due to the war on terror”, the committee called for “greater market access” for Pakistani exports to the US and other NATO countries.

The report recommended backing the process of peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan, adding there was “no military solution” to the Afghan conflict while suggesting tightened security along its shared border to staunch the flow of criminals, weapons and drugs.

Opposing the overspill of all violence from Afghanistan, the committee said Pakistan’s sovereignty should not be compromised by “hot pursuit or boots on Pakistani territory.”

The leader of the opposition in parliament Chaudhry 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 session was adjourned until Monday on Nisar’s request to give lawmakers time to study the recommendations.

Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
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