In what has become somewhat of a hollow ritual, Pakistan on Thursday once again summoned a senior US diplomat to lodge a formal protest over yet another spike in drone attacks inside the country’s tribal belt.
According to an official statement, a senior US diplomat, who was not identified, was called to the foreign ministry to convey Pakistan’s concerns over the CIA-piloted drone campaign.
“The diplomat was informed that drone strikes were unlawful, against international law and a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty. It was emphatically stated that such attacks were unacceptable,” the statement read.
The CIA, in recent days, has increasingly targeted the restive North Waziristan Agency, which the US claims is a hotbed of the deadliest Afghan insurgent group, the Haqqani network. There have been drone strikes reported on a daily basis for the last week.
The increase in drone strikes comes despite a recent visit by the chief of the Inter-Services Intelligence to Washington, where he is understood to have raised the issue with US authorities.
Thursday’s incident is not the first time that Pakistan has condemned and lodged a formal protest with the US over the deadly predator strikes. As recently as last month, the senior-most US diplomat in Pakistan, Richard Hoagland, was summoned in a similar manner to protest against a series of drone strikes.
The protest seems to have had no effect.
At least nine suspected militants were killed on August 22, when drones targeted a vehicle in the Sheen Khwar area on the outskirts of Humzonee village, around four kilometres from Miramshah. The area is thought to be a stronghold of anti-US militant commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur.
Washington has been pushing Islamabad for years to carry out a military offensive in the area against the Haqqanis, who have launched some of the most audacious attacks on the US-led foreign forces in Afghanistan.
Despite Islamabad’s repeated protests, the Obama Administration is not willing to halt the CIA drone campaign in the tribal areas — notwithstanding Islamabad’s offer of a new mechanism suggesting use of drones only for surveillance.
Recently, the Bloomberg website quoted two US officials as saying that US President Barack Obama has ordered a “sharp increase” in drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal area.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 24th, 2012.