ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has once again strongly denounced the CIA-led drone campaign in the tribal areas of Pakistan on Monday, warning that such unilateral strikes cast a ‘negative impact’ on efforts to forge a cooperative relationship with the US.
The condemnation from the Foreign Ministry came in response to the latest drone strike in Shawal Area of North Waziristan Agency on Sunday.
“These unilateral strikes are a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Pakistan has repeatedly emphasized the importance of bringing an immediate end to drone strikes,” the statement said.
It recalled that the Government of Pakistan had consistently maintained that drone strikes were counter-productive, entail a loss of innocent civilian lives and have human rights and humanitarian implications.
“Such strikes also set dangerous precedents in inter-state relations,” the foreign ministry spokesperson said.
Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry maintained that such drone strikes “have a negative impact on the mutual desire of both countries to forge a cordial and cooperative relationship and to ensure peace and stability in the region.”
The latest drone attack was the forth since the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) government took charge following the May 11 parliamentary elections.
A recent report in the Washington Post suggested that the United States had drastically scaled back the number of drone attacks against militants in Pakistan and had limited strikes to high-value targets in response to growing criticism of the program in the country.
Those actions appear to have temporarily appeased Pakistani officials, who publicly oppose the covert CIA strikes, US officials said. But some officials were still worried about a pushback from Pakistan’s new civilian leaders, who took power in June with a strong stance on ending the attacks altogether.
The future of the drone program is likely to be a key item on the agenda during US Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Pakistan, which is expected soon.
Only 16 drone strikes have taken place in Pakistan so far this year, compared with a peak of 122 in 2010, 73 in 2011 and 48 in 2012, according to the New America Foundation, a US-based think tank.
The CIA has been instructed to be more cautious with its attacks, limiting them to high-value targets and dropping the practice of so-called ”signature strikes” — hitting larger groups of suspected militants based purely on their behaviour, such as being armed and meeting with known militants, said a current US intelligence official and a former intelligence official briefed on the drone program.
The US policy of drones has been the major source of anti-American sentiments in Pakistan while Washington considers the use of unmanned aerial vehicles as key anti-terror tool to eliminate so-called high value targets associated with al-Qaeda from the tribal belt bordering Afghanistan.