Pakistan suggests drone formula
Activists and supporters of The Defence of Pakistan coalition sit on vehicles in Lahore on July 8, as they protest NATO’s presence in Pakistan. Ties between Pakistan and the US plunged to an all-time low after U.S. air strikes killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November. AFP photo
Islamabad has proposed a new mechanism to Washington for operations against al-Qaeda and Taliban militants as an alternative to drone strikes in Pakistan.
The plan crafted by Islamabad, according to Pakistani Express Tribune, involves both the identification of targets by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the tribal areas and swapping of information with the Pakistani security agencies. The latter will then deal with the situation accordingly, said officials familiar with the situation. “To ensure that Pakistan acts on the information provided by the CIA, the U.S. can use any mechanism to monitor our operation on the ground,” the daily quoted a senior security official as saying.
‘No foreign boots on the ground’
Pakistan says the drone strikes are counterproductive, violate its sovereignty, kill civilians and fuel anti-U.S. sentiment. The New America Foundation think tank in Washington says drone strikes have killed between 1,715 and 2,680 people in Pakistan in the past eight years.
“Washington can even use drones for this purpose,” the official explained, clarifying that no foreign boots on the ground would be allowed for surveillance. The mechanism is currently being debated between Pakistan and U.S. officials.
Ties between the two countries plunged to an all-time low after botched U.S. air strikes killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November. Pakistan had closed overland routes for NATO convoys going to Afghanistan. Earlier this month, Islamabad agreed to reopen the routes after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she was sorry for the deaths on July 3.
Double game accusation
The official, according to the report, disclosed that both sides had coordinated initial drone attacks when the CIA first launched its campaign back in 2004. Another official said that “the CIA later took a solo flight under the assumption that Pakistan is playing a double game.” The Obama administration has accused Pakistan of playing a double game in Afghanistan, supporting U.S. military operations and accepting U.S. aid while harboring Taliban leaders. U.S. officials have also said they have no intention of stopping covert CIA drone strikes in Pakistan, which they see as key to targeting militants in the country who pose a threat to the West.
The official said Pakistan expects a breakthrough in its ongoing negotiations with the U.S. on finding a “mutually acceptable” alternative to the drone campaign. Due to public anger in Pakistan, the official said the government “had” to oppose the drone campaign.
“That is why we have offered this alternative to the U.S., because we [Pakistan] want to become part of the system rather than being isolated,” he said.
Taliban suspends polio campaign
MIRANSHAH - Agence France-Presse
Pakistan yesterday postponed a polio immunization campaign in parts of its tribal belt, jeopardizing the health of more than 350,000 children after the Taliban banned inoculations. Local Taliban and Pakistani warlord Hafiz Gul Bahadur, whose followers are fighting Western troops in Afghanistan, banned the vaccinations in the northwestern region of Waziristan to protest against U.S. drone attacks.