After months of diplomatic squabbling over a deadly cross-border air raid by Nato troops on Pakistani posts, the United States now plans to offer a formal public apology to Islamabad, officials said on Monday.
Until now Washington was reluctant to apologise over the November 26, 2011 air strike on Pakistani border posts in the Salala area of Mohmand Agency that killed two dozen troops. It has ‘regretted’ the incident, though.
“The apology may come from the highest level and will be offered during or soon after the joint session of Parliament, which is scheduled to open a debate today on new terms of engagement (with the US),” a senior leader in the PPP-led ruling coalition told The Express Tribune.
The senior leader attended recent consultations between the country’s civilian and military leadership to finalise a strategy for the much-anticipated session of Parliament.
He said that the US has conveyed to Pakistan’s government that it was willing to offer a formal apology over the Nato air raid. “And it will come from the highest level,” he added.
Another official said that the government considered a formal US apology important for pacifying growing anger within the rank and file of the army in particular and the public in general.
“The US step may be symbolic but the government needs [an apology] to save its face, so it can get on with business as usual,” the official told The Express Tribune.
He said the administration of President Barack Obama appears to have now understood Pakistan’s position and accepted the fact that “gone are the days when they only dealt with certain individuals”.
Last month, The New York Times reported that the US planned to move past the deadly air strike in Pakistan and reboot diplomatic relations, but the plan was stymied by riots in Afghanistan set off by the burning of copies of the holy Quran at a Nato base.
Under a carefully coordinated plan, the military had planned for Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin E Dempsey to make a formal apology via telephone to Army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.
But the move was apparently delayed at the request of the Pakistani government, which wanted the American apology to coincide with the joint sitting of Parliament.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 20th, 2012.