A joint session of Parliament is due to be held on March 20 to consider recommendations of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS) about new rules of engagement that Pakistan wants to have with the US in the context of the war on terror. As a necessary precursor to the joint session, President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani jointly chaired a meeting of PPP and coalition parties’ top hierarchy on Saturday to discuss the proposals framed by the PCNS that had been charged with reviewing the whole range of Pak-US relations. Reportedly, it approved around three dozens of its proposals including the levy of tax on the vehicles as well as the goods to be transported across Pakistan, besides stressing that any form of relationship to be settled with the US administration or other countries engaged in the war must be in writing. The Parliament’s joint session would give its final nod to these recommendations or modify, if it considers necessary, before the matter is taken up with Washington.

The need for a review of relations was precipitated by the Nato helicopter attack on the Salalah check post last November that shocked the nation. Its death toll of 26 of our soldiers provoked countrywide angry protests lasting for weeks and compelled the government not only to stop the Nato supplies transiting through Pakistan to Afghanistan, but also to reassess the whole gamut of Pak-US ties. Already, it was being felt that Musharraf’s word of wholehearted support in the so-called war on terror and his tame acquiescence in American wishes had led the US to incrementally increase the scope of its encroachment upon Pakistan’s exclusive and inviolable domains, internal as well as external. Uneasiness at the repeated violations of our territorial sovereignty with drone strikes erupted into a veritable rage across the length and breadth of the country after the Salalah attack.

Neither had Pakistan expected the ruthless massacre of its troops at the hands of close allies, nor, it seems, the US and its coalition partners in the war had expected that Pakistan, which depended on the US for both economic and military support, would suddenly turn around and take such a firm stand. That the US was really stunned by the public anger in Pakistan at the killing of their soldiers was evident from the suspension of drone sorties for about two months, lest it should mar the prospects of the resumption of Nato’s vital supplies. Though the political realities would not let Pakistan completely break off relations with the US, it must not overlook the widespread public demand for a total stoppage of any supplies to the US-led forces fighting in Afghanistan. Linked with it is the longstanding feeling that participation in the war on terror was a terrible mistake and it must be brought to an end.