Pakistan on Monday once again denounced the CIA-led drone campaign in the tribal areas, warning that such unilateral strikes cast a ‘negative impact’ on efforts to forge a cooperative relationship between the two countries.
The foreign ministry condemnation came in response to the latest drone strike in North Waziristan Agency’s Shawal Area on Sunday.
“These unilateral strikes are a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Pakistan has repeatedly emphasised the importance of bringing an immediate end to drone strikes,” the statement ran.
It pointed out that Pakistan had consistently said that drone strikes were counter-productive, entail loss of innocent civilian lives and had human rights and humanitarian implications.
“Such strikes also set dangerous precedents in the inter-state relations,” the foreign ministry spokesperson Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry cautioned.
Such drone strikes had a negative impact on “the mutual desire of both countries to forge a cordial and cooperative relationship and to ensure peace and stability in the region,” he said.
The latest drone attack was the fourth since the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government took charge following the May 11 parliamentary elections.
A recent report in The Washington Post suggested that the United States had drastically scaled down the number of drone attacks against militants in Pakistan and had limited strikes to high-value targets in response to growing criticism of the programme.
Those actions appeared to have temporarily appeased Pakistan’s powerful generals, who publicly opposed the covert CIA strikes, US officials said.
But some officials are still worried about any fresh impetus from Pakistan’s new civilian leaders, who took power in June.
The future of the drone programme is likely to be a key item on the agenda during the US Secretary of State John Kerry’s upcoming visit to Pakistan.
Sixteen drone strikes have taken place in Pakistan so far this year, compared with a peak of 122 in 2010, 73 in 2011 and 48 in 2012, according to the New America Foundation, a US-based think tank.
The CIA has been instructed to be more cautious with its attacks, limiting them to high-value targets and dropping the practice of so-called ‘’signature strikes’’ — hitting larger groups of suspected militants based purely on their behaviour, such as being armed and meeting with known militants, said a current US intelligence official.
The US drone policy has been the major source of anti-American sentiments in Pakistan while Washington considers the use of unmanned aerial vehicles as key anti-terror tool to eliminate so-called high value targets associated with al-Qaeda from the tribal belt bordering Afghanistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 30th, 2013.