Unlike its previous claim, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government on Monday admitted there was no formal agreement with the United States to allow drone strikes.
“The government has not found evidence of any written treaty with the US permitting it drone strikes,” said State Minister for Privatisation Khurram Dastagir while answering a question in the National Assembly. “We feel that there was a tacit understanding between the two governments on the use of drones,” he added.
About the total number of US drone strikes in Pakistan since 2004, Dastagir said: “The US government has not officially acknowledged the drones, and that’s why no official statistics are available.”
However, according to unofficial figures of nongovernmental organisations, as many as 339 drone strikes were carried out, which killed thousands of people, including innocent civilians.
He said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon during his recent visit to Pakistan also stressed the need for making the drones subject to international human laws.
“The PML-N government has condemned US drone strikes soon after coming into power and has taken up the issue at all diplomatic forums. We will make all-out efforts to end drone attacks, which violate our sovereignty and human rights,” he added.
He said the PML-N government would make sure that all verbal understandings on diplomatic issues were translated into written agreements.
“Pakistan is making efforts to acquire the drone technology keeping in view the internal unrest,” he said in reply to a question.
“Pakistan is a sovereign country and if there is no agreement with the US over the use of drones, then why the current government has failed to take action against them?” asked Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf lawmaker Dr Shireen Mazari.
Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai asked the government why it had not told the truth to its own people. “I would like to know why the US continuously strikes within the Pakistani territory despite a strong reaction by the government?” he said.
“The Indian government has violated ceasefire agreement and the Indus Water Treaty under its election campaign, but our government is mum over these aggressions,” said Muttahida Qaumi Movement lawmaker Nabeel Gabol.
Dastagir said Pakistan did not want to escalate tensions with India and instead wanted to maintain peace and stability in the region. “However, the Pakistani government has taken up the issue with the Indian authorities,” he said.
He said Pakistan has lodged a protest with India through the Indus Water Commission and the Foreign Office against the reduction in water flow in the River Chenab.
He said India had recently started construction of two major power projects over the River Chenab – Ratle Power Project (850MW) and Pakal Dul Hydroelectric Plant (1,000MW). The later is located on the Marusaadar River, a major right bank tributary of the Chenab in Doda district of Indian-administered Kashmir.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 27th, 2013.