Parliamentary committee backs Bonn conference boycott

Dec 4, 2011

 Islamabad-Parliamentary Committee on National Security Friday endorsed decision to boycott the Bonn Conference on the future of Afghanistan in protest against NATO attack on border posts, which killed 25 soldiers on November 26, Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan said.   Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani also attended the meeting called to discuss the situation arising out of the NATO raids in Mohmand tribal region along Afghan border, she told reporters.

Gilani said that Pakistan, while wishing the Bonn Conference on Afghanistan success, but the Cabinet had decided that Pakistan should not participate in the Bonn Conference due to the prevailing circumstances.“These dastardly attacks in the dead of night cannot but be construed as a grave infringement of Pakistan’s territorial frontiers by NATO/ISAF and definitely compel us to re-visit our National Security paradigm. These attacks also have serious implications for regional peace and security,” Prime Minister Gilani told the meeting.

Parliamentary leaders of all political parties in the parliament attended the meeting besides military officials who briefed the participants about the NATO strikes.“The Government of Pakistan strongly condemned these attacks, which were violation of the principles of the UN Charter and international law. We also conveyed to the United States and NATO that these attacks were totally unacceptable and constituted a flagrant breach of Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the Prime Minister said.   He said Pakistan’s Red Lines -- no infringement of Pakistan’s territorial integrity and sovereignty had been made abundantly clear to the United States, NATO and ISAF. “We also conveyed, in no uncertain terms, to the United States and NATO that these attacks would have consequences”.   The meeting backed the decision of the Defence Committee of the Cabinet and the Federal Cabinet to close, with immediate effect, the NATO/ISAF logistics supply lines. The meeting also decided to ask the United States to vacate the strategically important Shamsi Airbase in Balochistan province within fifteen days. A notice to this effect has already been given to the United States, the Prime Minister told the meeting.

The parliamentary committee meeting also backed the government decision to revisit and undertake a complete review of all programmes, activities and cooperative arrangements with the United States/NATO/ISAF, including diplomatic, political, military and intelligence.The Prime Minister said that the country’s civilian and military leadership is of the opinion that the NATO attacks had gravely dented the fundamental basis of Pakistan’s cooperation with NATO/ISAF against militancy and terror. “The attacks were totally unacceptable and warrant an effective response”.

He said Pakistan’s Permanent Representative in New York was instructed to bring the matter to the urgent attention of the UN Secretary General.Gilani said that the extremely important task must be carried out by the parliament and, in the first place, by this Committee, adding that first and foremost, the national interests are supreme.

“All policies, positions and actions should conform to safeguarding and advancing of Pakistan’s national interests,” he said. He said the safeguarding of Pakistan’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity is a sacred national duty. Under no circumstances can this be compromised – no matter what the costs.

He said security and stability and ensuring the prosperity of our people are among our foremost priorities, adding that regional security and stability and good relations with all neighbours is important.The Prime Minister said Pakistan, as a responsible member of the international community, attaches utmost importance to respect for the principles of the UN Charter, norms of inter-state conduct and international law.

He said Pakistan has been impacted severely by the conflict and turmoil in Afghanistan, adding that besides the huge caseload of Afghan refugees, which runs into millions, Pakistan has been directly impacted by militancy and terrorism.“Terrorism has cost thousands of lives of our innocent citizens and security and armed forces personnel. The economic costs have been astounding”.

He maintained that countering terrorism is a national priority and the whole nation is determined to eliminate this menace from our society and the region.“Elimination of the menace of terrorism requires a comprehensive approach, as signified by our 3-Ds (Dialogue, Development and Deterrence),” he said and added that the country’s security and counter-terrorism policy needs to be pursued in a manner that suits Pakistan’s national interests.

He regretted that Pakistan’s willingness to cooperate with the international community on counter-terrorism has not been understood in its proper perspective. “The notion to give Pakistan a ‘to do’ list and the mantra of “do more” have caused immense resentment”. He pointed out that in recent months, there has been a tendency to project Pakistan not as a “partner” but as the “problem”.

“Our enormous sacrifices and contribution in the campaign against militancy and terror have not been adequately acknowledged. What is worse is the tendency to make Pakistan into a scapegoat for failings of international policies in Afghanistan,” he regretted.

On U.S. drone strikes, he said while Pakistan continued to protest against the drone attacks, which are clearly illegal and counter-productive, Pakistan has been subjected to numerous cross-border attacks by militants from sanctuaries and safe havens in Afghanistan.

“Our efforts to improve our relations with Afghanistan and support for Afghan-led and Afghan-owned efforts for reconciliation and peace have been misconstrued and actively subverted by certain quarters,” he said.

He said there is a limit to Pakistan’s patience and cooperation cannot be a one-way street. “Under these most challenging and difficult circumstances, Pakistan has maintained a principled approach and exercised utmost restraint”.           However, it would be a grave miscalculation for any one to believe that stability and peace in Afghanistan can be restored or maintained by destabilizing Pakistan, he added.

Gilani said that under no circumstances, the government will allow Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity to be jeopardized by ill-considered and rash actions such as the attacks on our territory by NATO/ISAF.

“Our patriotic people and valiant Armed Forces will spare no sacrifice in the defence of their motherland,” he said, adding that instructions have been issued to all units of the Pakistan Armed Forces to respond, with full force, to any act of aggression and infringement of Pakistan’s territorial frontiers.

He said the Nation, as a whole, and all State institutions are fully united and determined in their resolve to uphold national dignity and honour and to frustrate and defeat any nefarious designs against Pakistan.

He said Pakistan, as a responsible State, is ready to make its indispensable contribution to regional peace and security, in particular to support an inclusive process of national reconciliation and peace in Afghanistan.

Pakistan, he said, has repeatedly stated that stability and peace in Afghanistan is in Pakistan’s national interest. “We have participated and supported initiatives for peace in Afghanistan and the concept of regional economic cooperation”.

Gilani said Pakistan does not seek aid or economic assistance from the United States. “What we seek, in fact demand, is respect for our sovereignty and territorial integrity; a firm and categorical commitment on ‘inviolability’ of Pakistan’s borders and on non-recurrence of such incidents”.He said the terms of Pakistan’s engagement with the United States and NATO/ISAF have to be re-visited on the basis of sovereign equality, mutual interest and mutual respect. I look forward to your recommendations in this regard.

(Online International News Network, 4th Dec 2011)

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