The government on Saturday termed the death of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chief Hakimullah Mehsud in a drone strike a day earlier a deliberate move on the part of the United States to scuttle peace talks with the militant group.
“The US carried out the drone attack on the TTP chief deliberately to sabotage the peace process,” Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told a news conference in Islamabad. “The government of Pakistan does not see this drone strike as an attack on an individual … We see it as an attack on our peace efforts.”
He added, however, that the US move would be ultimately unsuccessful as it would not deter the government from negotiating with the Taliban. “Pakistan maintains its stance and will pursue the peace process.”
Nisar’s statement came after hours of deliberations, where the government decided to review Pakistan-US relations and discussed measures such as blockading Nato supplies. Other decisions taken by the government included serving a demarche to the US ambassador to Pakistan on drone attacks.
In addition to that, Pakistan’s Foreign Office and ambassadors were being mobilised to approach the permanent members of the UN Security Council to take them in confidence over the strike to form a future course of action. A meeting of the Cabinet Committee on National Security has also been called for finalising a future course of action as soon as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif returns to Pakistan.
Talking to journalists, the interior minister questioned the timing of Friday’s drone strike.
“Why did the US have to target Hakimullah Mehsud 18 hours before a government delegation was about to formally invite the TTP for talks when there had been numerous opportunities to target him in the past?”
The minister said the government had asked US officials,
including Secretary of State John Kerry, to take its stance on the cessation of drone strikes seriously or risk a standoff in several meetings, all of which, he added, were recorded.
He said that although the US had offered to cease all drone strikes apart from the ones targeting fighters crossing into Afghanistan and TTP chief Hakimullah, Pakistan had rejected these concessions and instead demanded a unilateral end to the campaign.
“There was an understanding that no drone strikes would be conducted [to facilitate the peace process],” the minister added.
“Is this the support we were promised [by the US]?” he said, referring to the statement issued after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s meeting with US President Barack Obama, where Washington expressed its support for talks with the TTP.
Nisar accused the US of having double standards when it came to Pakistan and the TTP. “Why are you [the US] pursuing peace with the Taliban in Afghanistan – which we are constantly facilitating - and why is the same not applicable to Pakistan?”
About the 9/11 attacks in New York, the minister said none of the terrorists involved were Pakistanis but still its fallout had turned Pakistan upside down.
“We are happy there is peace in the west but what have we done to deserve being constantly criticised, targeted and picked upon, despite losing 45,000 innocents to the war on terror,” he said.
Meanwhile, Nisar justified the delays in initiating peace talks with TTP following the all-parties conference citing the killing of a Pakistan Army major general by militants and subsequent attacks in Peshawar, including the blast inside a church.
He added that the country’s political leadership, “which has extended its support to the government for holding talks with the Taliban despite differences, will be taken into confidence over the future course of action once again.”
Published in The Express Tribune, November 3rd, 2013.
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