ISLAMABAD - Pakistan has termed the killing of Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud a US attempt to sabotage Islamabad’s plan to hold talks with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), saying "this is a drone (attack) on peace efforts in Pakistan".
At a press conference on Saturday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said: “This is a big bluster to the peace process which is being initiated by the Pakistan government with the TTP. We are examining different aspects of this incident.”
“The Americans don’t want peace in Pakistan. We will devise some concrete policy on drone attacks. Pakistan will have to talk to US to seek explanation of its actions from US Ambassador in Pakistan,” Nisar said, as he demanded the United States stop drone attacks in Pakistan’s tribal belt forthwith.
"Every aspect of Pakistan's cooperation with US would be reviewed following Mehsud's killing", the minister told the journalists at Punjab House Islamabad immediately after a high-level meeting. The Foreign Office had summoned the US ambassador to serve him with a demarche, he said, adding that Pakistan would take the five permanent members of the UN Security Council into confidence over drone attacks.
“The attack has severely damaged the expected TTP-government talks. We condemn it. I am in touch with the prime minister to sort out ways to control the damage,” said the interior minister. “We are also summoning the cabinet meeting on this national security issue upon arrival of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from abroad.” Again accusing the US of "scuttling" peace efforts by killing the militants' leader, he said: “This should not be viewed as the killing of Hakimullah Mehsud, rather, as the murder of the peace process.”
The interior minister also revealed that his news conference had originally been scheduled to announce a major development with regard to peace talks. "Instead of this, we were to make an announcement that a three-member delegation comprising Ulema (clerics) was to formally invite the Taliban for negotiations", he informed.
According to sources, the three member team to be sent to Waziristan to formally offer negotiations to the TTP comprised Mufti Taqi Usmani, Molvi Sher Ali Shah and, Moulana Amir Muhammad Khan Mehsood. Their visit was cancelled after Mehsud’s killing.
Nisar said Pakistan has been demanding from the US to get the drone strikes stopped during the talks. This was the second drone attack since Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's visit to the United States late last month, where he demanded US President Barack Obama to stop the attacks. Pakistan has long been opposing CIA-operated drone attacks in the tribal region considering them a violation if its territorial integrity, he added.
The federal minister said dialogue with the Taliban was the only right path that can improve the situation, adding that Pakistan made the decision to negotiate on its own and not at the asking of any foreign power. He added that the All Parties Conference’s decision of negotiations was not made to pave the way for any military operation.
Terrorism in Pakistan, he said, was a consequence of 9/11 and the policies adopted after it. A dictator dispatched army to the Fata, spawning the wretched conditions in the area, he asserted. The interior minister remarked the national security is a sensitive issue and the government is proceeding gradually, adding the preliminary draft of national security policy has been readied; however, the suggestions are awaited from the provinces.
Ch Nisar said that all the political parties’ leaders are satisfied after a detailed briefing on the related issues and “tomorrow (Sunday) we will seek advice from all political leaders on this issue”. He said that they have taken all the political parties’ leaders into the confidence and briefed them regarding the negotiation process. "They all were very satisfied and this consultation process will continue,” he said.
Nisar said Including PTI, PPP, MQM, ANP, JUI-F and other parties in the consultation process has been ensured. During All Parties' Conference all the stakeholders gave power to the federal government to hold dialogue with the Taliban but due to Hakimullah’s killing the process has been halted. He however hoped that peace in the country would be restored soon.
Before the press conference, Interior Minister Nisar chaired a meeting to discuss the impact of Taliban chief’s death on the security situation and the peace process. The meeting was attended by Prime Minister’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, PM’s Special Assistant Tariq Fatemi, officials of security agencies, foreign and interior secretaries.
The Foreign Office latter issued a press statement saying it has summoned the US Ambassador Richard Olson to protest over the drone strike which led to death of Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud and spoiled government’s efforts to launch a peace dialogue with the militants. "The Government of Pakistan has made its position clear that drone strikes constituted a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty, (they are) violative of international humanitarian laws, besides being counter-productive to Pakistan's efforts to bring peace and stability in Pakistan and the region," a statement from foreign ministry said.
"In accordance with our publicly stated, consistent policy, Pakistan has condemned drone strikes whenever they have taken place, including the two recent drone attacks that took place on Thursday and Friday." The statement said, in order to register concerns, the US ambassador was called to the foreign office by the foreign secretary to register protest over the recent drone attacks.
Pakistan, it said, has been raising its concern over the drone strikes with the US administration and at the United Nations. The prime minister during his recent visit to the US had raised the issue with President Obama and other senior US leaders, it added.
The latest drone strike will have a negative impact on the government's initiative to undertake a dialogue with the TTP, the ministry said. “The government, however, is determined to continue with these efforts to engage with the TTP, to bring an end to the ongoing violence and make them a part of mainstream politics within the parameters of our constitution."