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Govt reiterates opposition to drone attacks

May 25, 2013

ISLAMABAD, May 24: The Foreign Office has reiterated its condemnation of drone strikes but stayed short of demanding their cessation.

A statement issued by the Foreign Office on US President Barack Obama’s policy speech on counter-terrorism strategy on Thursday said: “The Government of Pakistan has consistently maintained that the drone strikes are counter-productive, entail loss of innocent civilian lives, have human rights and humanitarian implications and violate the principles of national sovereignty, territorial integrity and international law.”

President Obama described drone as a crucial weapon in the war on terror in AfPak region, but said it was not the only way to deal with militancy. In this respect, he appeared to have been convinced by the Pakistani argument that use of force alone could not crush terrorism.

“We appreciate that President Obama acknowledged that force alone cannot make us safe. The root cause has to be addressed,” Foreign Secretary Jillani said.

“There is the humanitarian aspect, sovereignty issues and legal implications of drone strikes,” he added.

Tighter oversight of the drone programme and tougher targeting rules may reduce the frequency of the strikes and provide an opportunity to the new government in Islamabad to put behind the controversy and move ahead with rebuilding relations with Washington.

Drone attacks have been deeply unpopular in Pakistan because of the perceived violation of sovereignty and the collateral damage they cause. There have been some 338 strikes in tribal areas since 2004 in which over 2,600 people, mostly militants, have been killed.

Drone war started by former US president George Bush saw intensification under Obama. (According to an agency report, 366 drone strikes took place between 2004 and 2013 and 2,537 to 3,533 people were killed.)

President Obama also resolved to continue efforts for rebuilding relations with Pakistan. This too went well with Pakistan government, which welcomed the statement and called for the rapprochement to be based on mutual respect and benefit.

“As a frontline state in the fight against terrorism, Pakistani troops have borne the brunt and given the ultimate sacrifice. We appreciate President Obama’s acknowledgement and recognition of the sacrifices made by Pakistan, particularly by our law-enforcement agencies,” the statement said.