A fresh diplomatic row erupted between Pakistan and the United States after issues concerning Thursday’s deadly drone strike intensified on Friday when Islamabad said it would boycott a Washington-proposed meeting next week and called for ‘revisiting’ the fundamentals of bilateral relations.
In what appears to be the harshest reaction in four years to civilian deaths in drone attacks, the Foreign Ministry summoned the US ambassador stationed in Islamabad to convey Pakistan’s sentiments on what a top official termed a ‘flagrant violation of humanitarian norms and law.’
Officials from Pakistan, Afghanistan and the US were scheduled to attend the trilateral meeting in the Belgian capital Brussels on March 26.
“Pakistan should not be taken for granted nor treated as a client state. Such strikes are unacceptable,” a strongly worded statement quoted Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir telling US Ambassador Cameron Munter.
The reaction came on the heels of similar resentment expressed by top Pakistani political and military leadership against the second deadliest attack ever in which 40 people, mostly tribal elders, The strike, which took place in the Datta Khel tehsil of the North Waziristan tribal region close to the Afghan border, reportedly targeted a meeting of the tribal council or jirga which had convened to resolve a dispute over a mountain containing precious minerals.
A regional commander and 12 foot soldiers of the pro-Pakistan militant group of Hafiz Gul Bahadur were among the dead – an apparent reason for the harsh reaction by the country’s politico-military establishment.
The strike came a day after a court in Lahore set free Raymond Davis, a contractor for the CIA who was arrested two months ago for killing two Pakistanis.
The Army was the first to react against the deadly strike followed by similar heated statements from Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and President Asif Ali Zardari.
“Munter was clearly informed that such attacks will lead to Pakistan and US revising the fundamentals of their relationship,” said the statement issued after the meeting between the foreign secretary and the US ambassador.
The Foreign Office also stated that it was for the White House and the US State Department to hold back those who have been trying to veer the Pakistan-US relationship off track.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, US Embassy Spokesperson Alberto Rodriguez confirmed that Ambassador Munter did visit the Foreign Office but refused to comment on the specifics of the meeting. Munter, however, said
that he will make sure that the country’s sentiments are conveyed to Washington, adding that Pakistan’s message would be delivered to the highest level of the US Administration.
An earlier round of the trilateral talks, scheduled to take place in at the end of February, was cancelled by the United States in February, apparently in protest of the detention of CIA contractor Raymond Davis.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 19th, 2011.