Imran Khan Tells Kerry Drones Helping Terrorists
By Abdus Sattar Ghazali
07 August, 2013
Pakistan Tahreek Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan, in a one-on-one meeting in Islamabad Thursday, told visiting US Secretary of State John Kerry that US drone attacks in Pakistan's volatile tribal territory were helping the terrorists.
A PTI press statement after the meeting said that Imran Khan told Kerry his party’s viewpoint on drone attacks in Pakistan, war on terrorism and the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The PTI chairman reiterated that drones were a violation of international law and counterproductive as the attacks cause collateral damage in terms of increasing terrorism, said the PTI statement adding that this links Pakistan to the US War on terrorism that in turn allows the terrorists to exploit the narrative of armed jihad and raise the suicide bombers.
The PTI has emerged as the third leading political party in last May's election. It now rules the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province where US drone attacks are launched.
The PTI told Kerry that to stop the suicide attacks you have to take away the motivation. The only way to effectively deal with this problem is a complete halt of drone strikes. Imran stressed that Pakistan has to delink from the US war on terrorism to deprive the terrorists of the opportunity to exploit the situation.
15 drone attacks were launched this year. The latest US drone attacks was on July 28 just hours before the arrival of Kerrey in Islamabad. There are estimates as high as 98% of drone strike casualties being civilians (50 for every one "suspected terrorist"). The Bureau of Investigative Journalism issued a report last year detailing how the CIA is deliberately targeting those who show up after the sight of an attack, rescuers, and mourners at funerals as a part of a "double-tap" strategy.
About the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, the PTI chief told Secretary Kerry that unless the withdrawal is arranged Pakistan will have to bear the brunt of the mess left behind, as had happened with the chaotic Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. For peaceful withdrawal, all stakeholders must be taken on board, he added.
Kerry suggests US drone strikes could end in Pakistan
Meanwhile, The News, a leading newspaper of Islamabad, reported that Secretary of State John Kerry said on Thursday that US drone strikes in Pakistan could end "very soon", in unusually outspoken remarks welcomed in Islamabad but immediately downplayed by American aides.
Asked in an interview by state-run TV whether the strikes could end, Kerry said: "I think the program will end as we have eliminated most of the threat and continue to eliminate it." Pressed on whether a timeline was envisaged, Kerry replied: "Well, I do. And I think the (US) president has a very real timeline and we hope it's going to be very, very soon."
A spokesman for Pakistan's foreign ministry welcomed Kerry's remarks, saying it was Islamabad's long-standing position that they should stop.
But US officials immediately sought to downplay Kerry's remarks. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that the number of drone strikes had declined owing to the drawdown of American troops from Afghanistan and because of progress in curtailing the Al-Qaeda threat. "Today the secretary referenced the changes that we expect to take place in that program over the course of time, but there is no exact timeline to provide," she said in a statement.
The News pointed out that Kerry's television remarks strayed from what he told a press conference with his Pakistani counterpart, Sartaj Aziz, when he tackled complaints about drones by pointing the finger at Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, believed to be based in Pakistan.
US, Pakistan to resume high-level negotiations
US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Pakistani counterpart, Sartaj Aziz, said Thursday that the two countries will resume high-level negotiations over security issues.
Kerry also said he had invited Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to come to Washington to meet with President Barack Obama.
''I'm pleased to announce that today, very quickly, we were able to agree to a resumption of the strategic dialogue in order to foster a deeper, broader and more comprehensive partnership between our countries,'' Kerry said at a press conference with Aziz in Islamabad.
He was speaking to media representatives after holding meetings with Prime Minister Sharif at the latter's residence and with a team led by Aziz at the Foreign Office. The US secretary of state also held a meeting with army chief General Ashfaq Kayani.
The US and Pakistan launched high-level talks on a wide swath of security and development programs in 2010. But the talks stalled in November 2011 after US airstrikes on a Pakistani post on the Pak-Afghan border killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.
Even before that, the bilateral relationship was severely damaged by a variety of incidents, including a CIA contractor shooting to death two Pakistanis in Lahore and the covert US raid that allegedly killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad.
The resumption of the strategic dialogue indicates that the relationship between the two countries has improved since that low point. But there is still significant tension and mistrust between the two countries, especially regarding US drone strikes and Pakistan's alleged ties with the militants using its territory to launch cross-border attacks against American troops in Afghanistan.
Senior administration officials traveling with Kerry told reporters that while relations with Pakistan have grown touchy in recent years, there is the prospect of resetting those ties with Sharif's government and working together on major issues — counterterrorism, energy, regional stability, economic reforms, trade and investment.
Silicon Valley-based Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America [www.journalofamerica.net]
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