Pakistan Panel Demands Apology for NATO Airstrike

Posted March 20th, 2012 at 4:45 am (UTC-5)
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A Pakistani parliamentary committee is demanding an unconditional apology from the U.S. for a NATO airstrike that mistakenly killed 24 Pakistani soldiers last year along the Afghan border.

Both houses of Pakistan's parliament met Tuesday to debate the recommendations of the committee, which is tasked with laying out the new terms of engagement with the U.S. and NATO.

The panel called the November incident “unprovoked” and said it was a “blatant violation of Pakistan's sovereignty.” 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.

Pakistan responded to the attack by ordering U.S. forces out of a Pakistani airbase and shutting down NATO supply lines to landlocked Afghanistan. The committee said Tuesday that all future NATO supplies may be taxed if the routes are re-opened.

The November incident deeply damaged U.S.-Pakistani relations, which had already been frayed by the covert U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan last year and a number of American drone strikes targeting militants in Pakistan's northwest.

The committee also called for an immediate end to the deeply unpopular U.S. drone strikes, saying they cause widespread anti-American sentiment and encourage radicalization.

The drone attacks, which U.S. officials say are key in the battle against the Taliban and al-Qaida, are thought to be carried out with the implicit permission of Pakistan's army. They are rarely discussed in public by U.S. officials.

Pakistani lawmakers are now expected to debate, and eventually approve, the panel's recommendations. Observers say the process is key to restoring full Pakistan-U.S. diplomatic ties, but warn that Pakistan's government and powerful army – and not its parliament – has the final say in the matter.