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March 19, 2012

Pakistan Parliament Demands End to US Drone Strikes

by Brian Padden

A Pakistani government commission tasked with ending a four month freeze in relations with the Washington has demanded an end to U.S.-sponsored drone strikes in the country. 

Committee chairman Mian Raza Rabbani read the conclusions of the report Tuesday to a joint session of both houses of parliament after months of reviewing relations with the United States. 

“It needs to be realized that drone attacks are counterproductive, cause loss of valuable lives and property, radicalize the local population, create support for terrorists and fuel anti-American sentiments,” Rabbani said.

While U.S. officials have sought for months to repair the relationship with Islamabad, Washington sees the drone strikes as a crucial to success against al-Qaida and the Taliban.

Pakistani officials regularly condemn the drone strikes as a violation of the country's sovereignty.  But the attacks are believed to be carried out with the help of Pakistani intelligence.

Rabbani also said the United States should unconditionally apologize for a NATO cross-border airstrike in November that killed 24 Pakistani military personnel.  That attack, which NATO military leaders said was accidental, prompted Pakistan to close off NATO supply routes to Afghanistan.

“The condemnable and unprovoked NATO/ISAF attack resulting in the martyrdom of 24 Pakistani soldiers represents a breach of international law and constitutes a blatant violation of Pakistan's sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he said.

Retired Pakistani General Talat Masood said it is unlikely the United States will agree either to a suspension of drone strikes or an apology for the deaths of the 24 border guards, but he expects a compromise will be reached.

Pakistan can exert more influence in the region and perhaps obtain more military assistance if it stays engaged with the U.S. and NATO, said Masood.

"So I think it is in Pakistan's national interest to sort of ensure that, you know, Pakistan remains relevant, and to stay relevant, the revival of the logistic supply line is very important."

The commission said that the re-opening of the supply route must be subject to strict monitoring within Pakistan and that shipments may be subject to new taxes and charges.

Lawmakers are scheduled to debate the recommendations in parliament this week. However, the army is expected to make the final decision over whether to reopen the supply route and reengage with the United States.