Islamabad: A Pakistani parliamentary panel that framed recommendations for resetting ties with the US is considering a proposal to link the reopening of NATO supply routes to the ending of American drone strikes in the country's tribal belt.
   
The Parliamentary Committee on National Security took up the proposal made by PML-Q parliamentarian Mushahid Hussain Sayed during a meeting on Friday evening. The move came hours after a CIA-operated drone targeted a compound in North Waziristan Agency and killed four militants.
   
The parliamentary panel is expected to incorporate Sayed's proposal into an amended draft of the 40 recommendations which were recently unveiled for revamping Pakistan-US relations, sources said. The panel also dropped three key proposals related to the use of airbases, the presence of foreign intelligence operatives and covert operations by foreign troops that were part of the recommendations.
   
The three proposals were dropped in keeping with an understanding reached between the government and opposition parties on Thursday. A joint session of parliament is currently debating the recommendations to finalise new "terms of engagement" with the US and NATO.
   
Friday's meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security was held to evolve consensus on recommendations to be adopted by the joint session. During a meeting of top political leaders chaired by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Thursday, senior PML-N leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had expressed reservations about three proposals related to the use of Pakistan's airbases, presence of foreign intelligence operatives and covert operations by foreign forces.
   
The Parliamentary Committee on National Security had said in its recommendations that the "use of Pakistani bases or airspace by foreign forces would require parliamentary approval" and that there "should be prior permission and transparency on the number and presence of foreign intelligence operatives in Pakistan".
   
The panel had further said that "no overt or covert operations in Pakistan shall be tolerated". These three proposals were dropped from the recommendations, sources said. Raza Rabbani, the head of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security, told reporters the opposition's reservations would be addressed and an amended draft of the recommendations would be presented to the Parliament.

Thursday's meeting of the top political leaders was also attended by senior military officials, including Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani and Inter-Services Intelligence chief Lt Gen Zahir-ul-Islam, who asked the government and opposition parties to take a united stand on key issues related to ties with the US.

Opposition wants explanation on US drone attacks

While the government and military officials wanted a speedy resolution of the issue of reopening NATO supply routes, the opposition parties sought detailed explanations on matters like drone attacks, the presence of foreign intelligence operatives and imposition of a tax on future transportation of supplies to NATO forces in Afghanistan.
   
Some of the opposition parties, especially the PML-N and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, threatened to leave the meeting if they were not listened to carefully by the government and military authorities. The military officials pushed hard for a "collective stand by all political parties, particularly the PML-N", on future engagements with the US and NATO.
   
When Leader of Opposition Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said the Parliament was not taken seriously, the military authorities argued they always followed the government’s instructions. A daily quoted an unnamed participant of the meeting as saying that the army and ISI chiefs asked the government and opposition parties to take a united stand.
   
"If you don't want drone attacks, you will have to decide it in so many words. We are there to follow your directions," a senior army official was quoted as telling the meeting. The military officials clarified to the politicians that they had not given any sort of assurances to their American counterparts in recent meetings on the issue of restoring NATO supply lines, which were closed following a cross-border air strike in November that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.
   
The Finance and Foreign Ministers briefed the meeting on possible outcomes in case Pakistan opted for a "confrontational mode with the US".

(Agencies)