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Miffed over drones, Pakistan to review ties with US

November 02, 2013 23:09 IST

Pakistan on Saturday accused the US of deliberately trying to sabotage its peace process with militants by carrying out the drone attack that killed Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud, saying it would review the entire gamut of bilateral ties and cooperation.

The drone attack in North Waziristan on Friday was not about the "killing of an individual but the murder of peace in the region", Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told a news conference.

Asked if he was saying that the US carried out the strike to derail the peace process with the Taliban, he said, "Absolutely." He said the US has targeted the peace process through drone strikes.

"Why has Hakimullah Mehsud become so important? If they were wanted there were many opportunities, we know it and I am sure they know it...Why target him just a day before a three-member team of ulemas was going to visit and start formal contacts," a visibly upset Khan said.

An urgent meeting of the Cabinet Committee on National Security has been called to review bilateral cooperation and ties with the US, he said.

The meeting is expected to be held in the next two to three days after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif returns from an official visit to Britain.

The Foreign Office summoned US envoy Richard Olson to protest the drone attack. In a statement, it said the attack that killed Mehsud will have a "negative impact" on the government's efforts to hold talks with the Taliban.

Khan refused to confirm the killing of Mehsud. "Even at this stage we don't have 100 per cent confirmation," he said.

Interior Ministry sources said they were awaiting official confirmation. "One agency working in the area has confirmed (Mehsud's death). We need confirmation from the main agency and others. He has a habit of coming back alive," a source said.

However, a Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan spokesman confirmed the killing of Mehsud. The commander and five other militants killed by the CIA-operated spy plane were buried in North Waziristan.

Addressing the media after chairing a meeting at the Interior Ministry, Khan vowed to raise the issue of drone attacks in international forums, including the UN.

Sources said the stopping of NATO supply trucks bound for Afghanistan would be one of the issues to be discussed at the meeting of the Cabinet Committee on National Security.

Khan said the 9/11 terror attacks in the US was a great tragedy but questioned why thousands of Pakistanis have lost heir lives in the war against terror when the attackers did not belong to Pakistan.

"Yet the US blowback has turned Pakistan upside down. We are happy that peace prevails in the US but what sin have we committed that we have suffered most casualties?" he asked.

Khan claimed the US envoy had told him during talks that they would not carry out any drone strikes during the peace process though Mehsud would not be spared.

He claimed the Americans were categorically told that if TTP was targeted, then the credibility of the US among the Pakistani public would further erode‚ strengthening the impression that Americans were against peace efforts.

Khan said the US agreed not to carry out drone attacks during the dialogue process but attached three conditions.

"Pakistan should make a formal demand for the purpose; drone attacks would not target TTP but will continue against others and Hakimullah Mehsud would be targeted if spotted. All the three demands were firmly rejected," he said.

He said the government demonstrated tolerance during the past seven weeks when bomb blasts targeted armed forces personnel and innocent people and now the other side should demonstrate tolerance and show commitment to the peace process.

The Foreign Office statement said the Pakistan government has been raising its concern over drone strikes with the US administration and at the UN.

Prime Minister Sharif had raised the issue with President Barack Obama and other senior American leaders during his recent visit to the US.

"The latest drone strike will have a negative impact on the government's initiative to undertake a dialogue with the TTP," the statement said.

"The government, however, is determined to continue with these efforts to engage with the TTP, to bring an end to the ongoing violence and make them a part of mainstream politics within the parameters of our constitution.

"In order to register our concerns, the US Ambassador was called to the Foreign Office by the Foreign Secretary to register our protest over the recent drone attacks."

The statement said it was decided to instruct Pakistani ambassadors in the capitals of the P-5 member states to brief the host governments on the country's concerns, with specific reference to the setback caused to the peace process by the latest drone attack.

Snehesh Alex Philip Islamabad
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