The country’s top civilian and military leadership huddled on Saturday to finalise a strategy for the much-awaited joint session of Parliament to debate new terms of engagements with the United States.
Lawmakers from both houses of Parliament will open discussions on Monday on the recommendations prepared by an all-party, bicameral parliamentary panel to reset relations with the US.
The comprehensive review was prepared after last year’s Nato airstrike on Pakistani border posts that killed 24 soldiers and plunged the already-fragile alliance between the two countries into serious crises.
Saturday’s meeting was the second in four days held at the presidency to fine tune draft proposals to be tabled before parliament for the approval.
It was chaired by President Asif Ali Zardari and attended by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, outgoing ISI chief Lt-Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha and heads of coalition parties.
The recommendations, which haven’t been made public, are believed to be general directions for the government regarding the nature of relationship with the US.
“Pakistan simply wants respect from the US,” said a Western diplomat, who has seen the proposals prepared by the parliamentary panel.
An official familiar with the development told The Express Tribune that the government will reopen the Nato supply route soon, but under new conditions including imposition of additional transit fees on goods.
Presidential spokesperson Senator Farhatullah Babar said the meeting was in continuation of an earlier meeting held on March 14.
He said the foreign minister and the Army chief briefed the participants on security and foreign policy-related issues.
The coalition partners noted that foreign relations should be conducted in a transparent manner with the involvement of public representatives, he added.
ISI chief’s farewell call
Outgoing head of the country’s premier intelligence agency Lt-Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha paid a farewell call on the prime minister.
Pasha, who served as the director-general for the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) for over 3 years, is due to retire on Sunday (today).
According to a statement, Gilani lauded the outgoing spymaster’s efforts in the war against terrorism.
Not all shared the sentiment though.
“There have been serious lapses on part of the ISI when Pasha was at the helm of affairs,” commented defense analyst Lt-Gen (retd) Talat Masood. “The biggest lapse was ISI’s failure to detect the icon of terrorism, Osama bin Laden,” he said.
Masood argued that during Pasha’s tenure there were suspicions that the ISI was working against the government and the nascent democracy.
“But one has to acknowledge that he led the ISI in most difficult circumstances. One must give him the credit that he remained calm during those testing times, and, continued to enjoy the support of the Army chief.”
Published in The Express Tribune, March 18th, 2012.