Editorial The News - Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Source : http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-8-98786-Reviewing-ties

Much before the Salala attacks, it was increasingly clear that far beyond communication failures and chain-of-command issues, the Pak-US relationship faced profound, existential problems, not least deep suspicions of each other. The exchange of reports, accusations and counter-accusations since the attack has laid bare the extent of this mistrust. Thus, it is timely that Pakistani lawmakers are now debating the terms of re-engagement with the US as encapsulated in the report of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security. The exercise should result in making the consequent policies more representative and acceptable, it is also important to objectively review the parliamentary committee’s recommendations and assess their appropriateness and feasibility.
Among the salient features of the draft being discussed is the demand for an unconditional apology for the Salala attack. There can be no worse indication of the state of ties than that the US refuses to apologise for the deaths of our soldiers in an unprovoked attack. Hopefully, good news will come in the wake of the parliamentary demand and quarrelling will give way to the long-overdue apology. Next, parliament has asked for an end to all covert deals and demanded that future decisions be transparent and in black and white. This is welcome and we hope that in the future all stakeholders will be on board to endorse any deals. Without these assurances, Pakistan’s foreign policy can never be truly democratic or representative.

On the issue of Nato supplies, the committee has recommended that if and when supplies are resumed, the shipments must be taxed and routes subjected to strict monitoring within Pakistan on entry, transit and exit points. The message then is clear — while outrage needs to be conveyed to the US, for the sake of regional stability the partnership with Nato will continue, but in exchange for the acceptance of Pakistani demands. Thus, new conditions including imposition of additional transit fees on goods, need to be met for the two sides to finally agree upon and start cooperating again. The committee has also proposed that fifty percent Nato carriages go through Pakistan Railways and fifty percent through road links to improve the health of the railways and the road network. Reports in the media have revealed that this proposal has the backing of the Pakistan Army also. The committee has also recommended that the Ministry of Defence and US/Nato/Isaf draft new flying routes for areas close to the border; that there be an end to unilateral operations; and that prior permission be sought and transparency ensured on the number and presence of foreign intelligence operatives in Pakistan. This is all do-able and the US must comply if the strain in relations is to be reduced.

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