WASHINGTION: Asserting that the US drone campaign is counterproductive, Pakistan’s Ambassador in Washington Sherry Rehman has said that negotiations with the United States over the controversial unilateral strikes are yet to take place.
In an exclusive interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Ambassador Rehman said America’s drone war “radicalises foot soldiers, tribes and entire villages in our region. And what we see, really, is that increasingly Pakistan is feared as a predatory footprint.”
In response to a question, she denied the assertions that apology over the Salala incident meant that Pakistan had allowed the drone programme to continue. However, she said that the apology over the incident that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers has “opened the space for an opportunity where we can have constructive conversations that might be to the satisfaction of both sides. Right now, we have not given a go-ahead at all”.
But she categorically emphasised that Pakistan’s concerns over the drone strikes could not be ‘brushed aside’.
Ambassador Rehman said that CIA’s covert drone war ‘tests’ the relationship between Pakistan and the US at every juncture. “We honestly feel that there are better ways of eliminating al Qaeda now, which can be done with our help. And we have been doing that consistently. We’re the heavy lifters in this relationship.”
When questioned about whether Pakistan accepted the accounting of how the Obama administration identified militants, Rehman said it was worrisome “because this leads to what you call signature strikes, if I’m not mistaken, where a certain level of suspected activity generates or motivates the trigger for – I really don’t know what motivates the trigger for X level or Y level of drone strikes.”
Relations between Pakistan and the US took a turn for the worse in 2011, with the Raymond Davis affair, the Abbotabad raid and then the Salala airstrike being key incidents that led to a near breakdown of relations.
The ambassador said Pakistan has faced near-daily bomb attacks by terrorists, and said that they do not want to play host to terrorists and international terrorists. “It is our fight as much as anyone else’s because we are committed to eliminating terrorism at its root and source.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 11th, 2012.