Pakistan Reviews Ties With U.S. After Deadly NATO Strike

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The November 26 attack was the 8th NATO strike on Pakistani posts in the last three years, according to the Pakistan army. A total of 72 Pakistani soldiers have been killed in such NATO strikes, but the latest strike has prompted an unprecedented angry reaction from the Pakistani military and civilian leadership...

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani says parliament will meet soon to reassess its relations with the United States in the wake of the November 26 deadly attack by NATO fighter jets and helicopters on two border posts, killing 24 soldiers.

The attack had caused widespread anger across Pakistan and the country's top civil and military leadership took unexpected and important decisions to review its future relationship with the U.S., close supply lines for NATO forces in Afghanistan, vacate a strategically important airbase in Balochistan province from the U. S. military and to boycott the December 5 Bonn Conference on Afghanistan's future.

The decisions are considered as a major setback in worsening Pakistan-U.S relations, which had been under stress since February this year when an undercover CIA agent, Raymond Davis, shot dead two Pakistani nationals in the eastern city of Lahore. The documents and mobile phone data of Raymond Davis mobile had unearthed a secret U.S. spy network in Pakistan, which prompted a call from Pakistan to seek details about all American secret agents and their activities in the country. Pakistan then had also asked the U.S. to withdraw its spies and U.S. trainers.

The unilateral U.S. military raid to kill Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad in May proved to be another serious setback for the already strained relationship. Pakistan had described the U.S. raid as a violation of the country's sovereignty.

The U.S. had been trying to put its relationship with Pakistan on track over the past few months but last month's U.S.-led NATO strike on border posts on Pakistani soil near the Afghan border has caused a severe blow to the uneasy relations.

The November 26 attack was the 8th NATO strike on Pakistani posts in the last three years, according to the Pakistan army. A total of 72 Pakistani soldiers have been killed in such NATO strikes, but the latest strike has prompted an unprecedented angry reaction from the Pakistani military and civilian leadership, which they have never shown before.

Apart from closing the supply lines for nearly 150,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan, this time Pakistan has also asked the U.S. to vacate the Shamsi airbase in southwestern Balochistan province, which is near the border with Afghanistan and Iran. The U.S. military has reportedly been using the airbase for nearly 10 years to carry out military operations in Afghanistan and for drone strikes in Pakistan's tribal regions.

President Asif Zardari reportedly rejected a request from the Foreign Minister of the UAE, who flew to Islamabad just a few days after the NATO strike, to withdraw the vacation decision or postpone the 15-day ultimatum for the withdrawal from the air base.

Expecting no change in Pakistan's decision, U.S. security personnel have now started to evacuate the Shamsi airbase and a couple of days ago an American plane arrived at the air base to bring back the U.S. personnel and equipment deployed there. The U.S. ambassador to Pakistan has confirmed the evacuation.

The Pakistani leadership seems deeply perturbed over the refusal so far by the U.S. and NATO to tender an apology over the deaths of the 24 soldiers. Pakistani leaders are now openly saying that future relations with the U.S. will be reviewed and new terms will be set for future cooperation with the U.S./NATO and ISAF. Pakistan has rejected the "regret" by the U.S. and NATO over the deaths of Pakistani soldiers as insufficient. Pakistan says the NATO strike was intentional as they violated a defined "Red Line".

Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani warned the United States in a CNN interview last month that "business as usual (with the U.S.) will not be there" now. Gilani also said that the only scenario in which the two countries could continue their relations was if they worked on the principles of mutual respect, which he said that Pakistan was not getting from the Americans at the moment.

Pakistan had never been so tough on the U.S., but the NATO killing of Pakistani soldiers in "unprovoked" raids brought the government under tremendous pressure to review its relations with the U.S. as enough is enough. The stand Pakistani leaders have shown since the November 26 NATO strikes is very clear, one in which they now have a mind to review what the majority in Pakistan considers an unnatural alliance with the U.S.

Pakistan's decision to close the NATO supply line, order the U.S. to vacate its airbase, boycott the Bonn Conference and reject the U.S. regret reflect the country's seriousness to review its relationship with the United States. There has been a long-awaited call from political parties, former diplomats, retired army generals, members of civil society and the media to review the country's foreign policy towards Washington.

President Barrack Obama called President Asif Zardari on Sunday and Secretary of State Hilary made calls to Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani and Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar to soothe angry Pakistani leaders, but the efforts have not worked. Despite phone calls by President Obama and Clinton, several influential U.S. lawmakers are sending negative messages and are calling for a review of U.S. relations with Pakistan.

Now Pakistan is set to start a review of its relations with the U. S. in the coming days and parliament will be summoned for this purpose. Important decisions after the NATO attack have set the tone for a review for a review of ties with the U.S. Foreign Ministry sources say that Pakistan has called ambassadors from several important capitals to seek their input for the new foreign policy and new relationship with the U.S.

It is the hope of the majority of the Pakistanis that the parliament will chalk out a relationship with the U.S. on the basis of mutual respect in real terms and that Pakistan will never bow before U.S. pressure.

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