But Pakistan, it said, had decided to bow out “in view of the developments and prevailing circumstances.”
The decision came despite pleas from Afghan President Hamid Karzai to Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. According to an account provided by Gilani’s office, Karzai called Gilani and argued that a boycott of the conference, scheduled for Dec. 5, would not encourage peace in Afghanistan.
Gilani responded: “How could a country whose own sovereignty and territorial integrity was violated from the Afghan soil . . . play a constructive role?”
One Western official who spoke on the condition of anonymity called the boycott “very unfortunate,” adding, “Pakistan is taking itself from the table precisely when it should be contributing to a solution in Afghanistan.” Pakistan’s participation, and its cooperation in the winding-down of the war in Afghanistan, is important in large part because of the leverage it is believed to have over the Taliban.
The move to shun the conference was made as two senior Pakistani military officers briefed local editors and commentators on the cross-border U.S. airstrike that killed at least 24 Pakistani soldiers early Saturday. The officers reiterated Islamabad’s contention that coalition forces had ignored appeals by Pakistan for NATO helicopters to stop firing on its checkposts.
All Pakistani soldiers at the post, as well as the reinforcements sent to assist them, were uniformed, Maj. Gen. Ashfaq Nadeem, the director general of military operations, told reporters.
“All coordination procedures were violated,” he said. “At multiple levels in ISAF, it was known that they were attacking Pakistani posts, but they continued with impunity,” Nadeem said, according to one television network editor who was present.
Nadeem said the Pakistani military had concluded that the strike was an “attack of blatant aggression.”
That assessment appeared to be becoming more widespread Tuesday in Pakistan, where newspaper editorials and street protesters, including members of an association of Pakistani truckers who carry supplies to NATO troops in Afghanistan, called for the nation to end its alliance with the United States.
In Lahore, the top official of the opposition-led province of Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif, met with the wife of one of the soldiers killed in the airstrike. According to a statement from Sharif’s office, the widow, “despite being in a deep state of grief and sorrow, said, ‘Those we are fighting for are not our friends.’ ”