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Pakistani Commission Wants Halt Of U.S. Drone Strikes, Apology

  • RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal

A protester gestures during a Karachi rally against drone attacks within Pakistan. (file photo)

A protester gestures during a Karachi rally against drone attacks within Pakistan. (file photo)

A Pakistani parliamentary commission has called for an end to U.S. drone-missile strikes targeting Islamist militants inside Pakistan.

The demand was announced as the Pakistani parliament met in Islamabad to debate the country's reengagement with the United States after months of severely strained ties.

The commission also called for Pakistan to demand an unconditional apology over the November NATO air attack that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

That bloodshed, and other issues, led to a sharp deterioration of ties between the Pakistani government and Washington. It also prompted Pakistan to close an important NATO supply route to neighboring Afghanistan.

Senator Raza Rabbani, head of parliament's national security commission, read out a list of demands and recommendations. They include revising the agreement covering the supply routes used by the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.

"Any consideration regarding the reopening of NATO-ISAF-U.S. supply routes must be contingent upon a thorough revision of the terms and conditions of the agreement," he said, "including regulation and control of movement of goods and personnel which shall be subject to strict monitoring within Pakistan on entry, transit, and exit points."

The demands list says Islamabad could reopen the supply routes but should also seek more money on "taxes and other charges" on all goods transiting through Pakistan. It also says that 50 percent of the goods should be taken by rail.

The parliamentary commission also stated that "any use of Pakistani bases or airspace by foreign forces would require parliamentary approval."

The commission's recommendations also reiterate Pakistan's commitment to the elimination of terrorism and combatting extremism.

Cooperation Is Crucial

The Obama administration says it is keen on restoring ties with Islamabad. Pakistan's cooperation is seen by Washington as crucial to efforts to reach a deal with Taliban militants in Afghanistan to bring peace to the country.

Recently leaked NATO documents have reportedly suggested that Pakistani secret services continue to enjoy decisive influence over the Afghan Taliban. Pakistan's government denies the assertion.

Hugely unpopular among Pakistanis, the U.S. drone attacks targeting militants are considered by Washington to be an important key to succes in the regional war against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

Analysts say the United States is expected to continue such strikes, despite opposition by the Pakistani parliament. However, the frequency of U.S. drone strikes has dropped significantly in recent months.

Initially scheduled to last for three days, the parliament's examination of U.S. ties got under way on March 20, but the next session was postponed until March 26 after opposition parties said they needed more time to study the commission's recommendations.

Ultimately, analysts say, Pakistan's government and the powerful army will decide on the future of Islamabad's relations with Washington. However, the parliament debate could have influence on the decision.

With Reuters, AP, AFP and local media reports
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