Rhetoric from Pakistan politicians about territorial integrity has gone on for some time. Actual changes on the ground could materialise soon, however, as Pakistan seeks to push for an end to drone strikes and other perceived ‘violations’ of sovereignty,
As part of its decision to review the terms of engagement with the US in the ‘war against terrorism’, Pakistan will be seeking firm guarantees from Washington. In addition to the calling off of drone strikes, Pakistan will also demand that Abbottabad-like raids not be repeated and intelligence about actionable targets be shared with Islamabad.
The developments were revealed by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani as he addressed a gathering of Pakistani and Afghan parliamentarians on Wednesday. The event was organised by the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency.
Gilani said that drone attacks, which caused collateral damage, must be stopped as these were grossly detrimental to the government’s efforts to isolate the terrorists from local population.
“Pakistan reserves the right to protest against any incident which violates its territorial sovereignty and damages its dignity,” the premier said, referring to the country’s reaction, including blocking supply routes, after Nato strikes killed two dozen soldiers along the Afghan border.
The premier also reiterated his government’s commitment to a sovereign, independent, prosperous and stable Afghanistan which, according to him, was in Pakistan’s best interests.
“Pakistan has all along supported President Karzai’s peace efforts. We continue to support an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process of reconciliation. Pakistan does not aspire to determine the political dispensation in Kabul,” he said.
Some Western countries believe that Pakistan is using the Taliban, who are overwhelmingly Pashtun, to engineer a role in the future political setup in Afghanistan. Gilani refutes this claim. “We want to have friendly relations with all ethnic and political groups of Afghanistan. Non-interference in Afghanistan’s internal affairs is fundamental to our policy,” the premier said.
He regretted the relentless blame game from Afghan officials and western nations directed against Pakistan. “It is time to understand and cooperate, rather than engage in the blame game which would only benefit those who are against peace and reconciliation,” he said.
Gilani emphasised that Pakistan was a part of the solution and not the problem. He added that the country’s decision to boycott the Bonn conference should not be taken negatively by Afghanistan.
The premier also expressed his sadness at the assassination of Burhanuddin Rabbani. The death of the head of the Afghan High Peace Council was a severe setback to the peace and reconciliation efforts, he said.
Gilani also accepted the suggestion of one of the co-chairmen of the delegation to inaugurate the engineering university being built in the Afghan province of Balkh with the assistance of Pakistan.
Co-chairman of the Afghan parliamentary delegation and member of Wolesi Jirga, Abdul Latif Pedram, admitted that unfortunately the relationship of Pakistan and Afghanistan is once again in trouble following Rabbani’s assassination. He appreciated the efforts to normalise relations between the ‘twin brothers’.
He also thanked the government of Pakistan for financial and technical assistance in the fields of infrastructure, education and health. Senator Besmellah Afghanmal, member of Meshrano Jirga and co-chairman of delegation, extended his best wishes to Gilani on behalf of President Karzai. He recalled Karzai’s recent statement that “if Pakistan was attacked either by the US or India, his country would stand by Pakistan”.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 22nd, 2011.