The Pakistani government cannot not verify reports suggesting that Taliban warlord Maulvi Nazir Wazir, also known as Mullah Nazir, was killed in a US drone strike on Wednesday in South Waziristan, said Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Moazzam Khan on Friday.
Mullah Nazir was seen as a pro-government Taliban commander, who in the past also struck peace deals with Pakistan. His killing might put Pakistan at odds with the US given Islamabad’s position that drone attacks could prove to be counter-productive for Afghan reconciliation process.
Addressing the weekly briefing in Islamabad, the spokesperson strongly condemned the drone strikes in the country’s tribal belt. “We strongly condemn drone attacks as they are in violation of Pakistan’s territorial integrity and sovereignty,” he said.
When asked, the foreign office spokesperson insisted that Pakistan was hopeful that the US would agree to alternatives to the drone program, which has stoked widespread anti-American sentiments in the country.
But the US has not dropped any hint that it would consider Pakistan’s request because the Obama administration sees drone strikes as a powerful weapon to eliminate high value targets associated with al Qaeda and the Taliban.
Afghan peace process
Khan said that Pakistan and Afghanistan were making efforts to hold an Ulema Conference this month in Kabul to help advance the peace process in the war-torn country.
The joint Ulema Conference is part of a series of steps the two neighbours announced in November last year to seek a political end to the long running conflict in Afghanistan.
Other steps include Pakistan’s decision to release Taliban detainees from its custody, who may help jumpstart the otherwise fragile peace process.
The spokesperson confirmed that Pakistan had so far released 26 Afghan Taliban at the request of Kabul. However, he did not provide further details whether those released were still in Pakistan or reached Afghanistan.