PESHAWAR, Feb 24: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa information minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain on Friday said the latest terrorist attacks in Peshawar were in reprisal for the US drone strikes in Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

Addressing a news conference here on Friday after suicide attacks against a Peshawar police station, the minister condemned the terrorist assault but regretted that Pakistan had already warned the US that drone strikes were detrimental to its interests.“The Taliban are currently negotiating with the US and therefore, they should take up the drone attack issue with the Americans instead of carrying out retaliatory strikes in Pakistan,” he said.

Mr Iftikhar said terrorist attacks in Peshawar had been carried out to pressure Pakistan in line with Taliban’s international agenda. He said his government wouldn’t succumb to the terrorists’ pressure tactics and would fight them out.

“We are opposed to drone strikes and consider them an attack on our sovereignty,” he said, adding that instead of targeting terrorist hideouts on its own, the US should share drone technology with Pakistan.

The minister said the Peshawar police station bombers wanted to take the 200 plus personnel hostage for dictating their terms to the government.

“One of the attackers managed to take position on rooftop, second accessed kitchen and the third entered dinning hall, but they all were eliminated by police in a half-an-hour encounter,” he said.

He said the government had a firm belied not to yield to terrorists and that its ‘jihad’ against them would continue. He, however, said without establishing an air of mutual trust among Pakistan, Afghanistan and the US, talks with the Taliban couldn’t succeed.

Mr Iftikhar denied the possible privatisation of the provincial government-owned Bank of Khyber and said no such plan had been made.

He said the government was working on selling 19 per cent of the bank’s equity shares to raise money to pay a Rs3 billion federal government loan that had been taken to fulfill the State Bank of Pakistan’s minimum capital requirements.“BoK is not being privatised. Only its management will be transferred to the private sector without losing the provincial government’s majority shares,” said the minister, who was accompanied by finance minister Hamayun Khan and finance secretary.

He said sales of the provincial government’s 19 per cent share would bring down its equity share from current 70 per cent to 51 per cent and that the government after disposing of a part of its shares would have five members in the bank’s board of directors.

“How can we privatise the bank after we made it a profitable entity,” he said, rejecting media reports that suggest that BoK’s headquarters is to be shifted to Karachi, while its name will be changed after sell-off.

Mr Iftikhar said his government was pursuing a policy of increasing BoK’s branch network. He said the number of BoK’s branches had increased from 34 to 62 and the government intended to increase it to a total of 78 countrywide branches’ network, he added.

Meanwhile, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governor Masood Kausar also condemned the Friday Peshawar attack and praised policemen for thwarting terrorists’ designs by rendering their lives.

“It (defence by police) speaks (about) the high standard of their professional competency, capabilities, spirit and courage and we feel proud of them,” he was quoted as saying in a news release.

Also, provincial Chief Minister Ameer Haider Khan Hoti condemned the bombings of the police station and said the recent wave of terrorism was meant to harass people and demoralise police that spearheaded a battle to eliminate militancy from the region, APP reported.

Talking to reporters after attending the funeral of the policemen, who died in the attack, he praised personnel for thwarting the terrorists’ attempt to hold police station staff hostage by rendering their lives.

He said the US drone attacks in Fata won’t help eliminate terrorism.

Speaker of the provincial assembly Kiramatullah Khan, senior minister Rahim Dad Khan, information minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain and senior police and government officials were also in attendance.

Updated Feb 24, 2012 08:37pm

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