Thursday, January 18, 2018

Pakistan's legislators urged to seek halt to U.S. drone strikes

Reflecting the anger of Pakistan's public and its political leaders, a parliamentary commission called Tuesday for an end to CIA drone attacks and demanded an unconditional apology for U.S. airstrikes along the Afghan border in November that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

The committee's report is the basis for a debate by both chambers of parliament on how to reframe the nation's contentious relationship with the United States, whose counterterrorism alliance with Pakistan has been badly fractured by a series of perceived U.S. blows to Pakistani sovereignty. The debate will begin next week.

As expected, the commission said the transport of NATO supplies through Pakistan into Afghanistan — frozen after the November border strike — could be revived. But it suggested higher tariffs and a requirement that half the goods travel on Pakistani rail lines.

Soon after the long-awaited report by the Parliamentary Committee on National Security was released in Islamabad, the Parliament suspended debate until Monday. Opposition leaders said they wanted time to absorb the commission's recommendations and consult with party members.

Some lawmakers asked for private briefings from military officials privy to secret agreements forged with U.S. forces or intelligence agencies about drone strikes and other operations. The report called for parliamentary approval of such deals, with a requirement that terms be put in writing and that lawmakers have some sway over the presence of foreign intelligence operatives in the country.

"No overt or covert operations inside Pakistan shall be tolerated," the report declared.

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