November 29th, 2011
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Pak boycotts Bonn Conference

gilaniLahore: Pakistan has decided to boycott the upcoming Bonn Conference on Afghanistan to protest a cross-border NATO air strike that killed 24 soldiers, intensifying the tensions between Islamabad and Washington. Pakistan arrived at this decision after a three hour special meeting of the Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani at the Governor House in Lahore.

The Bon conference on Afghanistan was to be held in the German city on December 5. The meeting was to bring together Western and regional leaders to forge a strategy to stabilize Afghanistan and smooth the planned American withdrawal from the country in 2014. Pakistan is perhaps the most important regional country because of it influence on Afghan Taliban factions on its soil, and U.S. and Pakistani officials had been urging Islamabad to attend.

Given the general pessimism about the future of Afghanistan, few had high expectations the conference would result in significant progress. But the absence of Pakistan will make even minor achievements much more difficult.

The Cabinet endorsed the decision made by the Defence Committee of the Cabinet following Saturday’s air strike to close all NATO supply routes and to ask the US to vacate Shamsi airbase, believed to be used by CIA-operated drones, within 15 days.

Pakistan has responded angrily to the attack by NATO aircraft on two military border posts, saying the air strike was launched without any provocation. The Pakistan Army has said a total of 72 soldiers have died in NATO attacks over the past three years.

Gilani said on Monday that it would no longer be “business as usual” in Pakistan-US ties after the latest attack. Gilani was quoted by TV news channels as telling the Cabinet meeting that life is precious for everyone and the people of Pakistan want to live with honour and dignity.

At this “difficult juncture for national security”, the people will back the government in tackling security challenges, he reportedly said. The premier pledged to protect Pakistan’s frontiers at all costs.


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