US slammed by Pakistan over drone strikes
Criticism follows Taliban leader's death
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, right, criticized US drone strikes on Pakistan soil (Aamir Qureshi / AFP)
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday denounced the continuation of US drone strikes as ‘unfortunate and deplorable’ in the wake of the killing of Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud in a US missile strike in North Waziristan last week.
Sharif said the ongoing use of drones indicates that Pakistan’s attempts to establish durable peace and the permanent elimination of terrorism has not been given due recognition.
Mehsud, who had a $US5 million bounty on his head, was killed the day before the Pakistani government was due to send a three-member delegation to start formal peace talks with the militant group.
Reacting strongly to the drone attack, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, an umbrella group of various militant outfits, called off the talks and vowed to avenge Mehsud’s death.
According to a press statement, Prime Minister Sharif summoned a special meeting of the federal cabinet to review Pakistan’s ties with the US following the collapse of peace talks.
“Amidst this scenario, the drone strike inflicted serious damage on the government’s efforts for dialogue and peace,” Sharif told the cabinet. “But we will not let the peace process be derailed.”
More than 50,000 people have been killed in militant attacks in Pakistan since the war against terrorism began following 9/11, according to Pakistani officials.
“If the efforts that we have initiated for peace, instead of bloodshed, are not to be supported, at least these should not be sabotaged. Pakistan has the right to make independent decisions in its own interest,” said Sharif.
He also told the cabinet that his government would honor the decisions taken by the All Parties Conference and carry forward the peace dialogue with Taliban.
“The international community, keeping in view the determination and unprecedented sacrifices of the people of Pakistan, is bound to support these initiatives and provide every possible backing to bring peace,” he said.
Earlier in the day, he warned that ending bloodshed and the cycle of violence in the country “cannot be done overnight, nor can it be done by unleashing senseless force against our citizens, without first making every effort to bring the misguided and confused elements of society, back to the mainstream.”
Separately, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly passed a unanimous resolution asking Sharif to devise a policy against the drone strikes.
Cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, whose Justice Party is leading a coalition government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, announced that he would block key NATO supply routes in the province on November 20 in a bid to thwart drone strikes if the federal government failed to act to end them.
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