American drone strikes should end: Pak lawmakers



Islamabad: Pakistani lawmakers on Friday asked the government not to allow its territory for transportation of arms and ammunition to NATO forces in Afghanistan and demanded that the US should stop drone attacks and respect the country's sovereignty.

The lawmakers who were debating the Parliamentary Committee on National Security's recommendations for resetting ties with the US during a joint session of parliament called on the government to keep national interests supreme while framing an independent foreign policy.

Senior PML-Q leader Mushahid Hussain Sayed said all decisions regarding national security should be made by parliament.

In the past too, all important decisions on national security and the nuclear and missile programmes were taken by civilians, he said.

"Now we have the opportunity and the time has come to take all decisions regarding our foreign policy, national security and NATO supply routes," he said.

US drone attacks should not be allowed at any cost and the supply of arms and ammunitions to NATO forces in Afghanistan through Pakistani territory should be strictly banned, he added.

PPP Senator Sehar Kamran said all decisions on foreign policy and future engagements with the US and NATO should reflect the will of the people and must be made with consensus.

She too said US drone attacks would not be allowed at any cost.

The lawmakers spoke hours after a CIA-operated spy plane targeted a compound in the North Waziristan tribal region and killed four suspected militants.

The Parliamentary Committee on National Security has made 40 recommendations for revamping ties with the US, including an end to drone strikes and the imposition of a tax before reopening NATO supply routes.

The government closed the supply routes after a cross-border NATO air strike killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani ordered a parliamentary review of Pakistan-US relations, which were rocked by a series of crises last year, including the killing of Osama bin Laden by American special forces in Abbottabad.

The lawmakers highlighted the need for Pakistan to maintain good relations with its neighbours, especially Afghanistan and Iran.

PML-Q leader Sayed criticized "US double standards", saying it was trying to establish peace in Afghanistan while "bombing Pakistan's territory and preparing to fight with Iran".

Pakistan would oppose any use of force by the US against Iran, he said.

Akhunzada Chattan, a parliamentarian from the tribal belt, said the success of the parliamentary panel's recommendations would depend on stopping US drone attacks.

"All our steps would be considered a failure if drone attacks continue," he remarked.

During an interaction with reporters outside parliament, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said she hoped that all political parties would evolve consensus on new terms of engagements with NATO, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan and the US.

A new independent foreign policy would have to be framed with utmost care, he said.

Prime Minister Gilani yesterday chaired a meeting of leaders of major political parties to discuss the parliamentary review.

The meeting was attended by Leader of Opposition Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan of the PML-N, key federal ministers, army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, ISI chief Lt Gen Zahir-ul-Islam and Pakistan's envoy to the US Sherry Rehman.

Gilani said the world is awaiting the outcome of the parliamentary review.

The new terms of engagement with the US and NATO pertained to national security and should be finalised with consensus, he said.

PTI