The government said on Friday it cannot verify the reported death of prominent Taliban commander Maulvi Nazir Wazir, better known as Mullah Nazir, in a US drone strike in South Waziristan on Wednesday.
Speaking at a weekly press briefing in Islamabad, foreign ministry spokesperson Moazzam Ali Khan condemned the CIA-piloted campaign in the tribal areas. “Drone attacks are violation of Pakistan’s territorial integrity and sovereignty,” he added.
In Islamabad, Mullah Nazir was largely seen as a pro-government Taliban leader. His killing may put Pakistani authorities at odds with their US counterparts, given Islamabad’s position that the drone campaign can prove counter-productive for the Afghan reconciliation process.
When asked, the spokesperson insisted that Pakistan was hopeful that the United States would agree to alternatives to the drone programme, which has stoked widespread anti-American sentiment in the country.
So far, there has been no inclination from Washington to consider Islamabad’s request, as the Obama administration considers the drone campaign a powerful tool for eliminating high-value al Qaeda and Taliban targets.
The spokesperson also said that Pakistan and Afghanistan were engaged in finalising arrangements for an Ulema conference, scheduled to be held in Kabul later this month.
The conference is part of a series of steps announced by the two neighbours in November last year to end the deadly conflict in Afghanistan. Other steps include release of Taliban detainees from Pakistan’s custody in an effort to facilitate the nascent peace process.
The spokesman confirmed that Pakistan had so far released 26 Afghan Taliban at Kabul’s request. However, he did not provide details as to whether those released were still in Pakistan or Afghanistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 5th, 2013.
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