A Pakistani parliamentary committee — tasked with laying out new terms of engagement with the United States and NATO — on Tuesday demanded an end to U.S. drone strikes and an apology from Washington for a NATO strike last year that mistakenly killed 24 Pakistani troops.
The report, read to a joint session of both houses of parliament by committee chairman Mian Raza Rabbani, calls on the United States to review its activities and cease all drone attacks inside Pakistan.
Rabbani said that “drone strikes are counterproductive, cause loss of valuable lives and property, radicalize the local population, create support for terrorists and fuel anti-American sentiments.”
U.S. lawmakers, however, are rejecting those calls. Independent Senator Joe Lieberman told VOA the drone strikes are critically important to America's national security, adding he does not believe they should stop.
Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the drones are needed due to the lack of a more aggressive effort by Pakistan to root out terrorists and radical militants along its border with Afghanistan.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said that although sovereignty is a big issue for any country, he would like to see Pakistan embrace the idea that extremism has no welcome home in Pakistan. He said drone strikes have been effective and that, in his words, “it is not in Pakistan's long-term interest to be seen by the world-at-large as a safe haven for terrorists.”
Rabbani also demanded an unconditional U.S. apology for the NATO airstrike in November that killed the 24 Pakistani soldiers. He said “the condemnable and unprovoked NATO/ISAF attack” represents “a breach of international law and constitutes a blatant violation of Pakistan's sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Washington has expressed regret for the loss of life and accepted partial responsibility for the airstrike, but has so far refused to apologize, saying NATO forces acted in self-defense.
Pakistani lawmakers are expected to eventually approve the panel's recommendations. But, ultimately, Pakistan's government and powerful army have the final say in the U.S.-Pakistani relationship.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland Tuesday said she would not comment on the issue until the process is completed.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar told reporters outside of Parliament that Pakistan needs to balance good diplomatic relations with its own interests.