With Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI)-led anti-drone protests reaching the federal capital on Thursday, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif issued directions to the interior minister to end the anti-drone campaign that started from Khyber Pukhtunkhwa (K-P) after a drone targeted the Hangu district.
Officials from the Prime Minister House on condition of anonymity said that Nawaz, in his instructions to Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, said, “PTI Chairman Imran Khan should be convinced that the protests and sit-ins are not yielding any results to his drone strategy. Instead, they are causing damage to national economy and provincial administration that PTI is taking care of.”
The officials further quoted the premier as saying that if Imran did not pay heed to this request, then the governor, chief secretary and inspector general of police in K-P should be directed to look into the matter and chalk out a strategy to end the unproductive protests as they are embroiling other parts of the country including the capital and heightening security threats.
Officials said that Nisar had assured the premier that the chief secretary and IG police are civil servants and will follow the instructions that have been issued by the centre.
NATO explores alternatives
As the premier called for an end to PTI’s protests, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) expressed its resolve to continue the uninterrupted supply of cargo to allied forces in Afghanistan, while Pakistan’s Foreign Office pledged its assistance in the drawdown of Nato forces despite the temporary blockade of the supply route at Torkham border.
“We will use all supply routes available and will use all available means – including air and ground – ensure supplies and equipment continue to move,” a Nato wrote in an exclusive email response to The Express Tribune.
Official John Ripley commented on behalf of the Atlantic Alliance, saying, “While travel via Pakistan is favoured because of convenience, we have flexibility and redundancy for all means of transportation.” Nato’s headquarters did not, however, respond to several other queries relating to financial losses or shortage of goods, and referred the matter to the US Embassy in Islamabad.
An embassy spokesperson on Thursday said that while the US and Nato have alternative routes for shipping supplies to and from Afghanistan, the demonstrations are having an adverse impact on local commercial trade, which comprises the overwhelming majority of the supply route’s traffic. “As a result, both Pakistani and Afghan business interests are suffering, as are the people who depend on products, including perishables that are shipped via this route,” the official said.
In response to a question, the US Embassy official explained that the shipments are expected to resume s when it is safe for the drivers to perform their work. “While we favour shipping cargo via Pakistan because of cost, we have built flexibility and redundancy into our overall system of air, sea, and ground routes to transport cargo into and out of Afghanistan. We anticipate no long-term impact to our retrograde movement.”
Foreign Office pledges support
At his weekly news briefing, Foreign Office spokesperson Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry told reporters that the federal government continues to facilitate arrangements for the passage of Nato supplies to ensure the safe exit of foreign forces from Afghanistan.
The spokesperson emphasised that the government has consistently called for an end to the CIA-led drone campaign in the tribal areas.
“The government has taken up this matter at the highest level with the United States and has also taken it up at United Nations. The government believes that all aspects related to these issues need to be settled peacefully and through talks,” he added.
The US military on Wednesday announced that it was ‘voluntarily halting’ shipments leaving Afghanistan via Pakistan due to security of drivers.
However, the State Department said the US favours using Pakistan overland routes for the retrograde movement of equipment out of Afghanistan and voiced the hope that the current situation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with regarding to the Torkham route would not have a long-lasting impact.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 6th, 2013.