ISLAMABAD (Agencies) Improper response from the offenders led the indignant Pakistan to further rage in furry, forcing Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to issue a stern warning on Monday that there will be 'no more business as usual with Washington after NATO aircraft in a cross-border raid killed two dozen Pakistan troops in a plausibly deliberate act of aggression.
ISPR, the official mouthpiece of Pakistan Army, went a step further by telling the western allies that mere NATO apologies were neither enough nor acceptable, warning that the 'unacceptable action can lead to serious consequences.
The Pakistani Taliban urged Pakistan to 'respond in kind to the attack, while the gravity of the situation was reflected in a statement of a top adviser of Afghan President Hamid Karzai who warned that Afghanistan and Pakistan could be on a path to conflict.
NATO has called the airstrike a 'tragic unintended event, which happened during pursuance of Pakistan-based militants. But Pakistan Army wont by their line, saying the border was so clearly marked that there was no chance of any misreading, nor were there any militants as the army had established its checkpoints after completely clearing the area of militants. Pakistani military also insisted it had not fired first in the incident, and said it had told NATO its aircraft were firing on friendly troops.
In an interview with CNN, Prime Minister Gilani said: Business as usual will not be there, therefore we have to have something bigger so that to satisfy my nation, the entire country, he said. Incidents such as the killing of the Pakistani troops by Nato and the US raid into Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden further alienated the Pakistani masses, leaving his government isolated in its unpopular alliance with the US, he held.
Asked whether the US-Pakistani alliance can continue, he replied: That can continue on mutual respect and mutual interest, adding that both were currently lacking. If I cant protect the sovereignty of my country how can we say its a mutual respect and mutual interest? Pakistan he said was re-evaluating its relationship with the United States. The South Asian nation wanted to maintain its relationship with the United States as long as there was mutual respect and respect for Pakistani sovereignty. The prime minister also said Pakistan had not yet decided whether to boycott next months Bonn conference on the future of Afghanistan.
It remains unclear what happened at the dead of night in some of the most hostile terrain on Earth. Afghan and Western officials reportedly said the Pakistanis opened fire first. Pakistan insists the attack was unprovoked. Nato and Afghan forces were fired on from a Pakistani army base, a Western official told the Wall Street Journal. It was a defensive action.
But Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said on Monday the Pakistani troops at two border posts were the victims of unprovoked aggression. This (assertion that Pakistan troops fired first) is not true. They are making up excuses. What are their losses, casualties? He said the attack lasted almost two hours and that commanders had contacted NATO counterparts while it was going on, asking they get this fire to cease, but somehow it continued.
Athar said that mere NATOs regret over the martyrdom of 24 security forces personnel was not enough. Mere apologies were neither enough nor acceptable, he said and warned that the action can lead to 'serious consequences. Our future plans of action and decision over the issue of cross-border attack would be formulated jointly by the civil and military leadership of the country, he said.
The spokesman said that such incidents have happened in past that killed 72 soldiers and injured more than 250 troops in the last three years. The Saturday action of US led Nato forces in the Pak-Afghan bordering area can lead to utterly grave repercussions, he said while repeating his warning. General Athar also told Reuters on Monday, This could have serious consequences in the level and extent of our cooperation..
Pakistani army officials said the posts that were attacked were about 300 metres into Pakistani territory. ISAF officers, however, maintain that the border in that area is disputed. Abbas told the Guardian on Sunday that the firing lasted for over an hour, and that ISAF made 'no attempt to contact the Pakistani side. This was a totally unprovoked attack. There are no safe havens or hideouts left there [for militants] in Mohmand, he said. This was a visible, well-made post, on top of ridges, made of concrete. Militants dont operate from mountaintops, from concrete structures.
Abbas also told a private TV channel on Monday that Nato helicopters opened fired first on the Pakistani military checkpoints. He said the soldiers notified Pakistan military headquarters, which informed the Nato authorities immediately. He said Pakistani soldiers fired at the NATO aircraft only in retaliation.
The Pakistani Taliban appeared Monday to try to widen the rift between Pakistan and the United States. Tehrik-iTaliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan said in a phone call to CNN that America would infringe on Pakistans sovereignty and continue operations on Pakistani soil in the coming days. Ihsan said Pakistan must respond in kind to the Nato attacks, and he warned that the Pakistani Taliban will continue their jihad as long as Pakistan remains an ally of the United States.
In Kabul, meanwhile, a senior adviser to Afghan president Hamid Karzai said Afghanistan and Pakistan may be on a course toward military conflict. Ashraf Ghani said the 'link between Pakistan and the assassination of a former Afghan president had united his country 'against interference. Ghani repeated Afghan accusations that Pakistan was harbouring and assisting the insurgency in Afghanistan, and said his countrys neighbour probably helped the suicide bomber who killed Burhanudin Rabbani in September.
You need to talk to Pakistan and Pakistan needs to choose, Ghani said. Does it want to slide down a path of three generations of conflict with Afghans? The assassination of President Rabbani has gelled the nation together against interference. And one or two more actions could put us in an irreversible course [towards] conflict. And weve shown through our history that we are a match for any invader, he said.
The two nations have been trading accusations in the border regions in the past few months, with Pakistan accusing the Afghans of harbouring militants and Afghanistan claiming Pakistani shells have hit their territory.