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Pakistan debates future U.S. engagement

By Nasir Habib and Reza Sayah, CNN
updated 5:31 PM EDT, Sun March 18, 2012
Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani created the Parliamentary Committee on National Security last November.
Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani created the Parliamentary Committee on National Security last November.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • President calls 2011 a "challenging year" for the two countries
  • Pakistan's parliament will convene Tuesday
  • They will debate the recommendations of a special committee
  • The committee studied how to engage with the United States

(CNN) -- A joint session of Pakistan's parliament will meet Tuesday to discuss new terms of engagement with the United States, a spokesman for the country's prime minister told CNN on Saturday.

The parliament will debate the recommendations of a special commission and will vote whether to accept them or not, spokesman Akram Shaheedi said.

Amid huge domestic and military pressure after NATO airstrikes on the Pakistani-Afghan border killed 24 Pakistani soldiers last November, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani created the Parliamentary Committee on National Security, a group of 18 members of parliament responsible for reviewing relations with the United States.

The committee forwarded its recommendations to the government about a month ago, and these will be debated Tuesday.

"We kept in mind both the angles, domestic demands and the requirement by the international community, while compiling our recommendations," Hiader Abbas Rizvi, a committee member, told CNN. "We were optimistic, progressive, but of course patriotic Pakistanis at the end while we were compiling the recommendations."

Rizvi expects that the recommendations -- which won't be made public until Tuesday -- will be approved, but not before several days of debate.

President Asif Ali Zardari, in an address to parliament Saturday, described 2011 as a "challenging year" in the "multi-dimensional and important" relationship between his country and the United States.

"We seek to engage meaningfully with the U.S. on the basis of mutual interest and mutual respect," Zardari said. "We are looking forward to your recommendations for re-engaging with the United States," said Zardari, referring to the parliamentary committee.

Zardari's speech mostly focused on domestic issues, including energy and inflation.

Opposition lawmakers shouted during the leader's speech and said, "End the corruption!" and "Stop the lies!"

The president's supporters slapped their desks, a customary sign of support in parliament.

After 20 minutes of protest, members of the opposition walked out.

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