Pakistan buries dead soldiers as anger mounts

Last Updated: Sunday, November 27, 2011 - 18:28

Islamabad: Pakistan on Sunday buried its 24
soldiers killed in a cross-border air strike by NATO aircraft
amidst mounting public anger over the incident that has pushed
the already strained ties with the US to a new low.

Senior military commanders, including army chief Gen
Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, and civilian leaders like Khyber-
Pukhtunkhawa Governor Masood Kausar attended the funeral
prayer in Peshawar for the soldiers killed in yesterday`s
attack in Mohmand tribal region.

The officials laid wreaths on coffins draped with green
and white Pakistani flags.

Later, the bodies were sent to their hometowns of the
soldiers for burial.

Kayani visited the military hospital in Peshawar and met
other soldiers who were injured in the incident.

The attack by NATO aircraft took the already strained
Pakistan-US ties to a new low.

Bilateral ties have been buffeted since the beginning of
the year by a series of incidents, including the killing of
two Pakistani men by CIA contractor Raymond Davis and the US
military raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May.

The Pakistan Army put the death toll in the NATO air
strike at 24 though officials were quoted by the media as
saying that 28 soldiers were killed.

Two officers - Maj Mujahid Hussain and Capt Usman Ali - were among the dead.

Pakistanis took to social media websites like Facebook and
Twitter to express their dismay and concern and the media
reflected the public anger over the attack.

"US stabs Pakistan in the back, again," said a headline in
the Daily Times while headline in The Express Tribune read:
"Pakistan inflamed as 24 killed in NATO strike".

The Pakistan government angrily responded to the attack by
closing all NATO supply routes and asking the US to vacate the
Shamsi airbase, reportedly used by CIA-operated drones that
are used to target militants in the country`s northwest.

Routes passing through Pakistani territory are used for
transporting nearly half of the supplies of foreign forces in
Afghanistan.

Gen Kayani directed his troops to prepare for an
"effective response" to the incident and the government said
it was reviewing all cooperation with US and NATO, including
political, diplomatic, military and intelligence cooperation.

Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar conveyed the "deep
sense of rage" of the Pakistani people during an early morning
phone conversation with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The incident is expected to increase pressure on the
Pakistani military, which faced unprecedented criticism in May
for failing to detect or counter the US commando raid that
killed bin Laden.

Analysts said the army could use the incident to reassert
its position and influence over the country`s politics.

In an editorial, the Daily Times said: "This is a very
precarious time in the US-Pakistan arena with this year in
particular being especially trying.

"From Raymond Davis and his gun slinging on the streets of
Lahore to the Osama bin Laden incident and now to the firing
on Pakistani soldiers on the volatile Pak-Afghan border,
things hardly seem able to get any worse".

However, the daily said attacks like yesterday`s air
strike were happening "because we have brought NATO and US
officials to a head in their frustration about the progress in
the war on terror".

"We promised to tackle the militants who have free rein to
cross the border at any time and attack US targets in
Afghanistan. However, what we did not tell them was that we
were going to have a little fun of our own - we were going to
play the double game in the name of `strategic depth`," it
said.

The Express Tribune, in its editorial, said the NATO air
strike was "a bloody reminder of how the two countries are
poles apart when it comes to Afghanistan".

It added: "The reason the US carries out such risky raids
in Pakistan is because we have refused to take action against
the Haqqani network, claiming it is not in our interest to do
so".

The influential Dawn newspaper, in its editorial, called
for greater cooperation between Pakistan and the US as the
Pakistan-Afghanistan border had "become increasingly
dangerous" due to incursions and attacks taking place in both
directions.

"The need is for more cooperation, not less. But the
mistrust that an incident like this can foster will do nothing
to bring that about," it said.

PTI



First Published: Sunday, November 27, 2011 - 18:28

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