Pakistan, by all accounts, continued to seethe for the third day on Monday over NATO helicopter attack on a border outpost which left 24 soldiers dead and 13 injured in the early hours of Saturday.
In separate interviews, Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani said it would not be “business as usual” and that Pakistan would review its relationship with the U.S. while military spokesman Athar Abbas demanded proof from NATO to back its claim that the attack was in retaliation to firing.
In an interview to CNN, Mr. Gilani said while Pakistan wanted to remain engaged with the U.S., the relationship would have to be anchored in mutual respect and equality. Though there were reports in a section of the local media that Pakistan may not attend the Bonn conference on Afghanistan or could scale down its presence, the Premier said no decision had been taken on this front.
About NATO's contention that the helicopters were called in as back-up after ground troops came under fire from Pakistan near Eastern Kunar, Major-General Abbas told a television channel that the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan had been informed about all military posts along the Af-Pak border and even maps marking their locations had been provided to them.
Pakistan also disputes the presence of terrorists on its side of the border with Eastern Kunar in Afghanistan as these areas, according to the military, had been cleared. Major-General Abbas said soldiers manning the posts also alerted General Headquarters about the attack and media reports suggest the senior leadership of the Army contacted ISAF commanders but the firing continued.
While NATO has regretted the incident and described it as “tragic” and “unintended”, the firing, according to ISAF personnel, was a result of the unclear border between Afghanistan and Pakistan which terrorists use to their advantage. Even in NATO's unofficial narrative about what transpired — as cited by various western media houses — the charge is not that the Pakistan Army fired at the ISAF/Afghan troops but that the ground troops came under fire from the Pakistani side.
In a related development, the Foreign Minister of United Arab Emirates Abdullah Bin Zeyed Al- Nahyan met President Asif Ali Zardari leading to speculation that the two discussed the fate of the Shamsi Airbase which Pakistan had apparently leased out to UAE in the 1990s and is used by wealthy Arabs to fly here on hunting expeditions.