Pakistan's Parliament on Thursday night gave a unanimous but conditional nod to re-engaging with the U.S. in what was described by Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani as a milestone event as “we have brought real and substantive oversight, and democratic accountability to our foreign and security policy''.
In the new scheme of bilateral relations, Parliament has asked the government to ensure an immediate end to drone attacks within Pakistani territory, stop infiltration on any pretext including hot pursuit, and ban transit of weapons by land or air into Afghanistan.
These are some of the recommendations made by the Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS) in its revised terms of engagement with the U.S. On the crucial question of reopening supply lines for NATO though Pakistan, the Committee is silent but the stricture that “Pakistani territory including its air space shall not be used for transportation of arms and ammunition of Afghanistan'' is being interpreted as a conditional nod for allowing transit of all other supplies.
In the earlier list of recommendations, there was no such provision though the PCNS said the reopening of NATO supply lines should be contingent upon a thorough revision of the terms and conditions by which NATO supplies transit through Pakistan; adding that such goods should be subject to Pakistani scrutiny.
Another condition that has been fine-tuned in the revised report pertains to existing verbal agreements with other countries. While stating that no new verbal agreement should be entered into by any arm of the government, the Committee in its revised report has said that all such existing agreements “will cease forthwith''. The earlier report had said that if any exist as of now, they will lapse three months after the recommendations come into effect unless such an agreement is put on paper.
Before the adoption of the report, Mr. Gilani told the House that Islamabad had sent a resounding message to the world that it would not tolerate violation of its sovereignty after a Pakistan Army outpost along the Afghanistan border was attacked by NATO helicopters on November 26, 2011. Now that the message had been delivered in no uncertain times, he sought Parliament's support in re-engaging with the U.S. as Pakistan cannot live in isolation.
Mr. Gilani also sought to dispel the perception that his government was soft towards the U.S. by stating: “Have the NATO supply lines ever been closed before? Was the U.S. ever told to leave an airbase before? And, didn't we resist pressure from world over to attend the Bonn conference in Afghanistan?''
Earlier, tabling the report, PCNS chairman Raza Rabbani said it represented bipartisan ownership of the recommendations. Given the Government's insistence that it would not reopen NATO supply lines into Afghanistan through Pakistan without Parliament's approval, many political parties had dragged their feet on the issue as they were wary of being seen supporting this move for fear of the political fallout in view of the rampant anti-Americanism in the country.
Though Islamabad had refused to engage with the U.S. at all levels for three months after the NATO attack on Pakistan Army outposts along the border with Afghanistan, contacts between the two countries had begun over the past few weeks with both the military and the civilian side of the government showing a willingness to re-engage with Washington. However, the official refrain remained that policy directives for conducting the relationship in future would be given by Parliament.
Keywords: U.S-Pakistan relations