Calls for revision of terms of engagement with the U.S.

Pakistan's Parliament on Tuesday sought to carve out a role for itself in matters of national security by recommending that all agreements with other countries, including use of bases or airspace by foreign forces, be put to parliamentary scrutiny, and seeking to do away with verbal agreements that have allowed the U.S. to undertake drone attacks inside the country in violation of national sovereignty.

These were among the 40 recommendations made by the Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS) as part of the effort to revise the terms of engagement with the U.S. The committee was tasked with this job after the November 26, 2011 NATO attack on the Salala checkpost along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border that left 26 Pakistani soldiers dead. The attack resulted in Islamabad closing down land transit facilities for goods and supplies to the international forces in Afghanistan and expelling the U.S. from the Shamsi airbase in Balochistan.

The report was tabled during a joint sitting of Parliament. Repeating the demand for an unconditional apology from the U.S. and the cessation of drone strikes inside Pakistan, the committee said there should be no hot pursuit or boots on Pakistani territory and the activity of foreign private security contractors must be transparent and subject to Pakistani law.

To avoid recurrence of a Salala-like incident — particularly since NATO had suggested they had been lured into firing on the military outposts by terrorists who use the uncertainty of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border to their advantage — the PCNS has asked the Defence Ministry/Pakistan Air Force and the U.S./NATO to draft new flying rules for those areas.

The committee has also called for 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. No verbal agreement will be made with any foreign country or institution by the government or its institutions. And if any exist, they will lapse three months after the recommendations come into effect unless put on paper, said the committee.

Besides recommending that all agreements including military cooperation and logistics be put to parliamentary scrutiny, the PCNS has suggested that 50 per cent of the NATO supplies be transported by Pakistan Railways which is currently in financial dire straits.

The recommendations also include a demand for a civil nuclear deal with the U.S. like the one Washington has signed with New Delhi — which, according to the committee, has altered the strategic balance in the region — and a reiteration of Pakistan's stated position on Kashmir.

While the recommendations did not throw up any surprises as they primarily suggest a re-engagement with the U.S. — albeit on stricter terms and with transparency — the report primarily is being billed as a bid by Parliament to get a say in national security; hitherto the exclusive domain of the security establishment.

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