Bonn conference boycott: Gilani unmoved by Merkel’s gentle nudge

Published: December 1, 2011
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This handout photograph taken on November 26, 2011 and released by the Pakistani military shows the border post following Nato’s cross-border airstrike in the Mohmand Agency. PHOTO: REUTERS

This handout photograph taken on November 26, 2011 and released by the Pakistani military shows the border post following Nato’s cross-border airstrike in the Mohmand Agency. PHOTO: REUTERS

ISLAMABAD/KARACHI: 

The prime minister has simmered down, but not enough to confirm Pakistan’s attendance at the Bonn conference.

Hints of flexibility came after much insistence from German Chancellor Angela Merkel for Pakistan to reconsider boycotting the meeting on the Afghan endgame.

However, the only assurance that Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani gave Merkel was that Pakistan’s ambassador to Germany could attend the conference, but only if the parliamentary committee on national security approves.

He turned down Merkel’s request that Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar attend the conference, while Khar herself told a Senate foreign relations committee that Pakistan’s decision was final.

In a special meeting in Lahore on Tuesday, the cabinet had agreed to boycott the conference on the Afghan endgame in protest of Nato’s attack in Mohmand Agency that killed 24 troops in the deadliest assault in a decade.

The calls from the international community to attend the conference were led by Washington. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Pakistan should reconsider its decision, but stopped short of apologising for the deaths of the 24 soldiers.

“Nothing will be gained by turning our backs on mutually beneficial cooperation. Frankly it is regrettable that Pakistan has decided not to attend the conference,” Clinton told a news conference in South Korea.

Clinton voiced regret over Pakistan’s decision, pledging an investigation “as swiftly and thoroughly as possible” into the “tragic incident” and hoping it would find a “follow-up way” to take part in talks on Afghanistan’s future. “What is most important I think is that we learn lessons from this tragedy because we have to continue to work together,” she said.

Afghanistan has also asked Pakistan to reconsider its decision. Speaking to journalists in Karachi about his conversation with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Gilani said, “I replied that the territory of Afghanistan was being used against Pakistan and he said it was done by Nato and I told him to talk to the US about it.”

“I told him that we have to protect our country and work for its security and defence. If we go to Bonn for you, then who will guarantee our security?  We cannot just go like this,” he added.

Meanwhile, news from Kabul indicated that Pakistan had resumed some cooperation with US-led forces in Afghanistan.

Nato said Islamabad communicated with the alliance to prevent an exchange of artillery fire late on Tuesday from turning into another international incident. German Brig Gen Carsten Jacobson, a Nato spokesman in Kabul, expressed hope that Pakistan’s cooperation in resolving the incident in eastern Afghanistan’s Paktia province signaled the two sides could recover from the recent tragedy.

Meanwhile, Gilani said the government has asked the US to evacuate the Shamsi airbase by Dec 11.

Speaking to journalists after inaugurating the UAE expo 2011 ceremony, Gilani said: “We have given the Nato forces a deadline and asked them to stop drone attacks because we cannot play a significant role in a war which damages our sovereignty. We need a guarantee that such attacks will not happen again, otherwise we cannot cooperate.”

In Lahore, Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan put the blame on the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz for leasing the base to the US and said the Shamsi Airbase was leased in 1998 when the PML-N’ government was in power.

(Read: Do away with this charade)

(WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM AGENCIES)

Published in The Express Tribune, December 1st, 2011.

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Reader Comments (20)

  • Dec 1, 2011 - 5:28AM

    Khar, stick to your words. I am watching news actively to read some more news against US which is my food.

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  • Ramski
    Dec 1, 2011 - 6:01AM

    If Pakistan does not send at least the foreign minister to the meeting it will be Pakistans loss. What may be decided at the meeting may turn out to be not in favour of Pakistani interest in Afganistan.
    This could in turn increase terror activities with the backing of the establishment. And so it starts all over again

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  • F Khan
    Dec 1, 2011 - 6:49AM

    Gilani has to remain unmoved. If he moves…than he will move to adyala.

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  • Khan
    Dec 1, 2011 - 6:55AM

    Boycotting a conference will serve nothing … Lets not act like an immature … neither this stance can stay for longer … If those who made this decision really care about this country and its future or want to honor those soldiers and civilians who are victims of this WoT & extremism in our society .. they must act now to seal & fence Duran Line completely & permanently for any unauthorized crossing .. Send back all refugees and increase trade on both borders to improve economy … In long term control population growth and invest in quality education in throughout the country including the tribal areas while also implementing better tax collection system.
    In short run get rid of all extremists (leadership) and especially those sympathizers roaming around in our cities and some also sitting in parliament.

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  • Dec 1, 2011 - 7:35AM

    @khadim Nabi: Love your comment because the same feelings are in my physiological set-up. Salams to you my friend

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  • Dec 1, 2011 - 7:58AM

    One aspect of the government’s bold stand is a big question, which remains unanswered. This is the DCC’s decision to boycott the Bonn Conference. This is worrying because of a sudden reversal in attitudes. A decision taken by the top decision making body on defense should be univocal, which it is upto now.

    Having a flexible back-bone is good but not after sixty-four years of mortification and humiliation. We have to minimize our relations with the rancid behaviour of the US and Europe. Relying on our efforts is the catchword for today and there can be no back-tracking on it. Even if we are isolated by many of the Islamic nations around us and China in the neighborhood.

    ALLAH ALLMIGHTY helps those who keep their behaviour, actions and decisions clean and work assiduously towards implementing them. Salams to Pakistan

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  • Dec 1, 2011 - 8:37AM

    why our old mASTER GREAT BRITAIN IS STILL SILENT ON THIS ISSUE? DAAL VICH KALLA HAI?

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  • Hamid
    Dec 1, 2011 - 9:05AM

    Does Hillary mean that the investigation would be conducted by the very people who were involved in the crime???

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  • Still a pakistani
    Dec 1, 2011 - 9:10AM

    Mr. Prime Minister, don’t listen to anyone(including army) who tells you to change your decision and send someone to attend the conference…! Recommend

  • Bhutto
    Dec 1, 2011 - 9:24AM

    What is the whole point of these conferences anyways? As far as I know there are about a dozen of them a year. If i remember correctly there was one in Turkey 2 months ago. This will be the tenth year that the conference will be held. What has changed since these conferences began, that Germany thinks will change till they withdraw in 2014? The so-called conferences are a bunch of waste of time. The west just wants to show the world that they are planning a future for Afghanistan.

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  • Mohammad Ali Siddiqui
    Dec 1, 2011 - 9:28AM

    No one from Pakistan should attend the Bonn Conference.

    Attending Bonn Conference by any Pakistani national will be equivalent to compromising with the blood of 24 Pakistan army personnel who were brutally killed by US and NATO forces.

    The US President should apologize to Pakistan in clear words and then we will discuss the matter in the Federal Cabinet Meeting and with CDC.

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  • DILU
    Dec 1, 2011 - 9:29AM

    @Ramski: Participants are not attending these meetings to discuss some thing. They are summoned there so that they can listen and then implement the decisions made by US.

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  • ashok sai
    Dec 1, 2011 - 9:38AM

    This all goes well with India – as we are the American poodle in the region –
    We Indians have always been slaves either of Muslim, Brits, Soviets and now Americans. We just can not think freely.
    Indian govt needs to send their troops to Afghanistan to save the lives of American troops, Indian blood is much cheaper than American.

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  • Syed Arslan Bukhari
    Dec 1, 2011 - 9:49AM

    I think this is the first time this Govt. has taken the right step to upheld Pakistan’s Sovereignty, dignity and honor. We should stand by the Govt.’s decision as united and let the world know that whatever be the differences we have between us, we can not tolerate injustice brutal killing of our proud soldiers and innocent brothers and sisters who are already living in miserable life due to certain insurgency. Pakistan has already paid more than enough for this so called War Against Terror. Let me remind everyone that we were living in peace till late 90’s and we ruin our peace by indulging someone else’s war. Its the right time to change our foreign policy, despite fearing about the economic sanctions that we will going to face, as we have our best friend China with us, who is a growing super power. No compromise shall be made upon Pakistan’s Sovereignty.

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  • Mahesh Patil
    Dec 1, 2011 - 10:30AM

    @Khan:
    You need to have great man like Mr.Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.Unless until you make your Army to obey civilian government in letter and spirit,it is your distant dream.

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  • RizwanTKhan
    Dec 1, 2011 - 12:13PM

    PM better not move and continue the boycott.

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  • Parvez
    Dec 1, 2011 - 1:07PM

    Lets look at it realistically. Have any of the previous Bonn type conferences produced any favourable results ? So if we sit this one out our absence may just be more forceful than our presence.

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  • Hedgefunder
    Dec 1, 2011 - 10:02PM

    @ashok sai: Ashok sai bhai, I couldn’t agree more!!! India has become America’s b..ch!!! India should also help in the war on terror and send troops to Afghanistan. We keep on commenting about Pakistan, but have we ever done anything for Pakistan? I am ashamed to call myself Indian sometimes!!! Love you Pakistan.

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  • Khalid
    Dec 2, 2011 - 10:42AM

    Boycotting is no solution! May be Salala attack was aimed towards putting Pakistan under pressure before the conference. Memogate scandal may also have some link to the issue. But Pakistan must attend the moot and take a firm and bold stance during it. We should realize that Pakistan cannot afford further conflict and should act wisely.

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  • TN guy
    Dec 3, 2011 - 2:55AM

    Nobody is more involved with the future of Afghanistan than Pakistan. To boycott these meetings is just plain ignorant. It is like an immature child throwing a tempertantrum, hurting no one but themselves. The meetings will propably be more productive without the itty bitty baby Pakies.

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