Pakistan on Thursday signalled its willingness to explore alternatives to American drone strikes inside the country’s tribal belt.
The statement, given by foreign office (FO) spokesperson Moazzam Ali Khan at his weekly news briefing, appears to be aimed at breaking a deadlock between Pakistan and the US on the controversial campaign.
The new foreign policy recommendations approved recently by parliament have called for an immediate end to the drone strikes. But the demand has been rejected by the US, which considers the CIA-run campaign its premier asset in eliminating what it terms “remnants of top al Qaeda leadership” in Pakistan. American officials have also maintained this week that the drone attacks are legal and justified.
Khan contested American claims saying “drone attacks are illegal, counter-productive, a violation of our sovereignty and territorial integrity and therefore totally unacceptable.” He added, however, that the two sides were discussing the issue at various levels in order to come up with a mutually acceptable solution.
“We are willing to explore other possibilities… (there will be) no compromise on drone attacks,” was his response when questioned about the possibility of intelligence sharing between Pakistan and the US on the drone strikes.
However, it is unclear what alternatives Pakistan can offer the US in return for an end to the drone campaign.
In the past, Islamabad has suggested using its air force to take out al Qaeda associated high value targets in the tribal region. But the US reportedly showed little interest in the proposal fearing intelligence leaks allowing targets to escape.
No decision yet on NATO summit
The FO spokesman said Pakistan has not yet decided whether to attend the gathering of 50 heads of states from Nato countries in Chicago later this month.
He confirmed the issue did come up in discussions during the civil-military huddle on Wednesday.
Khan said the Defence Committee of the Cabinet (DCC) had started preparing a work plan for effectively implementing the recommendations approved by parliament.
“We have not finalised the next steps yet,” he pointed out, acknowledging the lack of a clear roadmap for resuming cooperation with the US.
Sources say Islamabad’s participation in the high-profile gathering on the Afghan endgame in Chicago hinges on progress to break the months-old deadlock between Pakistan and the US.
Talks between the two countries to revive cooperation have hit a roadblock over the American reluctance to offer a public apology for last year’s Nato air strikes on Pakistani soldiers and Islamabad’s strong opposition to drone attacks.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 4th, 2012.
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