Pakistan Officials To Meet On Rules For US, NATO

By Salon Staff

Published January 14, 2012 12:18PM (EST)

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan lawmakers recommended that Islamabad seek "guarantees" that Washington will respect the country's sovereignty when top military and civilian leaders meet Saturday to discuss new rules on coordinating with the United States and NATO amid anger over airstrikes that killed Pakistani soldiers.

The closed-door meeting could also provide an opportunity for reconciliation between the military and the civilian government after a week of escalating tensions and rumors of a coup on the horizon.

Both army chief Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani were expected to attend, bringing the two men into the same room together at a time when the civilian and military sides of the government have appeared increasingly divided.

The army has staged at least three coups in Pakistan's six-decade history and still considers itself the true custodian of the country's interests. On Wednesday, it warned of "grievous consequences" for the country in an unusual statement, raising fear it might try again to oust the government.

Saturday's meeting of the government's defense committee was called to discuss recommendations from parliament about new terms of engagement with the United States and NATO, Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik said.

Pakistan set up this committee after errant airstrikes near the Afghan border killed 24 Pakistani troops in November. The incident prompted Islamabad to shut NATO and U.S. supply routes running into Afghanistan through Pakistan.

Khursheed Ahmed, a member of parliament's national security committee, said lawmakers had recommended that the Islamabad seek "guarantees" from Washington that it would respect Pakistan's sovereignty and avoid any future violations of the country's borders. He declined to say what such guarantees would look like or any other details. It was not clear if other aspects of Pakistan's coordination with the U.S. and NATO were also under review.

Tensions between the military and the government also have spiked after an unsigned memo was sent to Washington last year asking for its help in heading off a supposed coup.

Analysts say Gen. Kayani has little appetite for a coup, but they say the generals may be happy to allow the Supreme Court to dismiss the government by "constitutional means." The court has legitimized early coups.

Gilani has called for a "show of confidence" vote in parliament to support of the government. Lawmakers will vote on the resolution Monday.

The nuclear-armed country is facing a host of problems, among them near economic collapse and a virulent al-Qaida- and Taliban-led insurgency.

In the latest violence in the northwest, gunmen and suicide bombers attacked a police station, sparking a firefight that killed three officers and one civilian, said Bahawal Khan, a local police official. The militants struck about midday Saturday in Dera Ismail Khan district and fighting continued for hours afterward.

About eight or 10 attackers wearing police uniforms besieged the station, and two suicide bombers detonated their explosives during the battle, police said. Another attacker was killed in the fighting.

The district sits at the edge of South Waziristan tribal region that served as Pakistani Taliban headquarters before the Pakistani army launched an offensive in late 2009.

In the southwest, meanwhile, Pakistani authorities said a court has acquitted three Iranian border guards held on murder charges and will hand them over to Iranian officials.

Pakistan detained the men Jan. 1 in Baluchistan province for fatally shooting a man as they chased smugglers into Pakistani territory.


Associated Press writers Abdul Sattar in Quetta, Ishtiaq Mahsud in Dera Ismail Khan and Asif Shahzad and Heidi Vogt in Islamabad contributed to this report.

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