Drone campaign: US ready to call a timeout, says Aziz

Published: November 21, 2013
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Aziz reiterated that the TTP chief’s killing scuttled the nascent peace process. PHOTO: AFP

Aziz reiterated that the TTP chief’s killing scuttled the nascent peace process. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: The United States has assured Pakistan that it will temporarily call off the controversial drone campaign if the Taliban sat across the table with government negotiators for peace talks, the prime minister’s top foreign policy aide revealed on Wednesday.

Islamabad’s fledgling peace process with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) fell apart earlier this month after a remotely-piloted aircraft killed Hakimullah Mehsud in a missile strike in North Waziristan Agency.

Sartaj Aziz, the prime minister’s adviser on national security and foreign affairs, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Hakimullah was eliminated because the US considered him a ‘high-value target’. Aziz, however, reiterated that the TTP chief’s killing scuttled the nascent peace process.

The disclosure came as the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government prepares to block the vital supply routes for the US-led Nato forces fighting a deadly insurgency in neighbouring Afghanistan.

Aziz informed the Senate panel – headed by ANP Senator Haji Adeel – that the government was trying to resuscitate peace efforts. However, he did not explain when and where the US assured Pakistan of suspending drone strikes to allow Islamabad to re-launch peace dialogue.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif raised the issue of drones with US President Barack Obama last month. However, the American leader did not make any public commitment on the controversial issue.

Pakistani sources, nevertheless, claimed that the Obama administration had agreed to consider the government’s request of temporarily suspending drone attacks during the peace process.

Meanwhile, officials suggested that Aziz’s announcement was aimed at pushing the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) to call off its planned protest in Peshawar on November 23. The PTI insisted that it would not let Nato containers  pass through the province unless drone strikes are halted. Aziz told the Senate panel that under the agreement Pakistan could not stop Nato supplies passing through its territory.

Meanwhile, officials revealed that US Ambassador to Pakistan Richard Olson recently met with the PM’s adviser and conveyed his country’s concerns over the possible blockade of supply routes.

PTI scoffs at disclosure

Imran Khan’s party rejected the proposed compromise between Pakistan and the US on temporarily halting drone strikes in the tribal areas, questioning the credibility of the statement made by Sartaj Aziz.

“The PTI rejects any limited compromises in relation to ending drone attacks,” said the party’s Central Information Secretary, Shireen Mazari. “Sartaj Aziz’s claims are not credible and therefore, meaningless,” she said in an official statement.

Mazari also voiced concern that if Washington is serious about its commitment, then the statement about a provisional halt in drone strikes should have officially come from the US, so that the exact nature of the commitment would be clear with no room for denial.

Furthermore, the PTI demanded the government take a clear position on the US drone campaign in accordance with the all-party conference resolution and keeping the Peshawar High Court’s decision in mind, instead of trying to justify the position of the United States.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 21st, 2013.

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Reader Comments (11)

  • Noman
    Nov 21, 2013 - 3:44AM

    Block the NATO Supply. Good luck Imran Khan Nation is with you!

    Recommend

  • polpot
    Nov 21, 2013 - 6:38AM

    From Drones to ……………………
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    Dronegate.

    Recommend

  • a&a
    Nov 21, 2013 - 6:48AM

    how sure are you…….???

    Recommend

  • AK47
    Nov 21, 2013 - 9:46AM

    Beautiful aircraft. Truly amazing

    Recommend

  • Mamu
    Nov 21, 2013 - 10:03AM

    Really. USA and PMLN think we are fools. Block the NATO supply at any cost. PTI all the wayyyy!Recommend

  • Qasim
    Nov 21, 2013 - 11:01AM

    Really………. what about the one yesterday in Hangu? Was this before or after the so called assurances? Was the statement a political ploy?

    Recommend

  • Np
    Nov 21, 2013 - 11:11AM

    @Mamu:
    Well if you think that US actually gave that assurance, then you are indeed a fool. It is PML-N lying as always.

    Recommend

  • polpot
    Nov 21, 2013 - 12:13PM

    I think now the Advisor has proven that he needs to be promoted to Foreign Minister
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    Pls read http://tribune.com.pk/story/634776/drone-attack-in-hangu-kills-eight-injures-three/

    Recommend

  • Read again.
    Nov 21, 2013 - 12:30PM

    @Mamu:
    @Qasim:
    What was the statement? No drones during talks. They did nit say no drones ever. But at this time TTP has said it is not willing to talk. So condition for drone stoppage has not been met.

    Recommend

  • touseef
    Nov 21, 2013 - 4:50PM

    Sartaj Aziz is nwaz’s adviser or obama’s adviser?Recommend

  • Stranger
    Nov 21, 2013 - 5:56PM

    DRONE seems to be the new national bird of Pak.

    Recommend

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