Long-awaited US review likely next week


A joint session of parliament tasked with reviewing and formally resetting troubled relations with the United States could start as early as Monday, an official said.
“I think that this particular subject will be considered by the parliament starting from the 19th of this month,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit told reporters, asked when parliament will conduct the review.
The process is considered key to getting Pakistani-US diplomatic relations onto a more solid footing after US air strikes last November killed 24 Pakistani soldiers and brought the relationship to its lowest point in years.
The review is seen as a precursor to Pakistan reopening its Afghan land border to NATO convoys, which have been sealed since November 26, and a resumption of high-level American diplomatic visits. The November 26 strikes capped a disastrous year for an alliance already seriously compromised by the covert raid to kill Osama bin Laden on May 2 and the detention of a CIA contractor who killed two Pakistanis in January 2011.
Islamabad closed its Afghan border and ordered US personnel to leave the Shamsi airbase, reportedly a hub for covert American drone strikes against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Pakistan’s tribal belt.
The foreign ministry spokesman said that a decision would be taken on reopening NATO supply lines after the parliamentary process is complete.
Pakistan is expected to tax convoys carrying NATO supplies from its port in Karachi and to the border with landlocked Afghanistan. Experts believe it may be able to earn $1 million a day from the arrangement.
The Washington Post newspaper wrote recently that Pakistan and the United States were working out a more pragmatic framework, which could involve fewer US drone strikes on militants. The strikes are publicly condemned by the Islamabad government.
Commenting on US drones strikes on Pakistan, Basit said that all options, including United Nations, would be considered to stop the US drones attacks.
He said that the drone strikes were sheer violation of Pakistan’s territorial integrity. “Pakistan has been using all diplomatic channels to bring an end to the strikes that are damaging our efforts against militancy and terrorism. Voices are also being raised in the West against these illegal drone strike,” he said.
He said Pakistan was taking the issue forcefully with the United States and hoped that the US will revisit its policy towards that end.