Angry over the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) attack on its border post near Afghanistan last Saturday and believing it to be a deliberate violation of its sovereignty, Pakistan on Tuesday decided to boycott next week's Bonn Conference to decide on the future of Afghanistan.

The decision to stay away from the conference was taken at a meeting of the federal Cabinet held in Lahore and came some hours after the U.S. State Department stressed the importance of Pakistan's participation in the meeting. Soon after the boycott was announced, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai telephoned Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani and asked him to reconsider the decision. “He said Pakistan's absence from the Bonn moot would not be helpful to the efforts aimed at bringing about peace in the Afghanistan,” said a statement put out by the Prime Minister's office.

While deciding not to participate in the Bonn Conference, the Cabinet reaffirmed Pakistan's support for stability and peace in Afghanistan and underlined the importance of an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned process of reconciliation. The Cabinet also endorsed the decision of the Defence Committee of the Cabinet to stop transit of supplies to NATO troops in Afghanistan through Pakistan, and to ask the U.S. to vacate the Shamsi airbase.

Pakistan is under considerable pressure from the United Arab Emirates to reverse its decision to call for vacation of the airbase but has apparently refused to budge. The Foreign Minister of UAE, Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, made an unscheduled visit to Islamabad on Monday to reportedly talk Pakistan out of the decision or at least extend the 15-day deadline given to the U.S.

The airbase had been leased out to UAE by Pakistan in 1992 for allowing rich Arabs to fly directly into Pakistan for hunting purposes and the emirate had, in turn, sublet it to the U.S. The U.S. first used the airbase to launch attacks inside Afghanistan and then for drone attacks inside Pakistan.

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