Pakistan on Friday denied reports that it was willing to agree on a joint mechanism with the United States to carry out drone strikes in tribal regions to take out ‘high value’ targets associated with al Qaeda and the Taliban.
“We have been saying all along that Pakistan’s sovereignty is non-negotiable. Therefore, we cannot think of, let alone accept any arrangement whereby our sovereignty is compromised,” Foreign Office spokesperson Abdul Basit told a weekly briefing.
Drone strikes inside Pakistan are illegal and these should be stopped, he demanded.
“Moreover, we firmly believe that these strikes are damaging our efforts against militancy and terrorism,” Basit said.
The US policy of using unmanned aerial vehicles in the tribal regions has stoked widespread anti-American sentiments in Pakistan. And even though Islamabad has publically condemned drone attacks repeatedly, it is believed to have an understating on the issue with Washington. The spokesman, however, denied the existence of such an understanding, insisting that the government had been pushing the US to revisit its policy of using drones in the tribal areas.
“We have been taking this issue forcefully with the US and with other Western countries. But, unfortunately, that has not happened,” Basit said, adding that Pakistan would take up the matter with the US once Parliament completes its review to rewrite terms of engagements with the US.
The spokesperson was not taken aback by the Afghan Taliban’s decision to pull out of talks with the US. “Reconciliation in Afghanistan is not a linear process. Since it is intricate and complex, ups and downs will be inevitable,” he said.
He went on to add that it was important for all stakeholders to be patient, perseverant and sincere to the purpose of reconciliation, adding that everyone’s eyes should be on the objective which is to achieve a sovereign, independent, peaceful and stable Afghanistan.
In this spirit, he said, Pakistan would continue encouraging all parties towards an intra-Afghan consensus to achieve a durable political settlement that accords with the aspirations of the people of Afghanistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 17th, 2012.