A joint session of Parliament due to review the troubled alliance with the United States has been delayed until next month at the earliest, a lawmaker said on Monday.
Senator Salim Saifullah Khan told reporters that the session would be “sometime after March 12”, but indicated that it could be postponed even longer owing to foot-dragging over the status of the US relationship. Senate elections take place on March 2 and the new lawmakers in the upper house of Parliament will be sworn in on March 11, pointed out the chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee.
The review is considered key to getting Pakistani-US diplomatic relations onto a more solid footing after US air strikes last November killed 24 Pakistani soldiers and brought the relationship to its lowest point in years.
This month, Islamabad reacted angrily to a resolution from a US lawmaker calling for self-determination in restive Balochistan province and the burning of the holy Quran on a US airbase in Afghanistan.
Senator Khan described these as “irritants, which I’m sure, when debated in the joint session will play a major role in discussions” and can be used “to bring a wedge between the United States and Pakistan”.
He then later told reporters: “Maybe there’s no joint session in March”, indicating the possibility of further delays.
The November 26 air strikes capped a disastrous year for an alliance already seriously compromised by the covert raid to kill Osama bin Laden on May 2 and the detention of a CIA contractor who killed two Pakistanis in January 2011.
Islamabad later closed its border crossings to NATO supplies and ordered US personnel to leave Shamsi airbase.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 28th, 2012.