LAHORE, May 31: Irritated by this week’s drone attack which killed Taliban’s front-rank leader Waliur Rehman, the PML-N said here on Friday it would ask the United States to exercise “restraint and give peace a chance”.
The chief of the party and incoming prime minister Nawaz Sharif expressed “serious concern and deep disappointment” over the drone strike.
“The drone attack is not only a violation of the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity but also an action that has been declared a violation of international law and UN charter,” he said in a statement.
According to a PML-N leader, a close aide of Mr Sharif has conveyed his point of view to US Chargé d’Affaires Richard Hoagland. The diplomat was told that the attack — days after President Obama’s ‘crossroads’ speech — was highly regrettable, “particularly as the president had spoken of initiating a new policy which would ensure greater exercise of care and caution in the use of this technology”.
Mr Sharif’s aide also pointed out that meaningful consultations and close cooperation between the two countries should be the “desired course of action”, rather than unilateral measures.
PML-N Senator Pervaiz Rashid said the drone strike was not good for the incoming government’s efforts for peace. “The US should have shown restraint knowing the government is going to hold peace talks with Taliban,” he told Dawn.
“The PML-N hopes that a single incident will not sabotage the peace efforts the incoming government intends to initiate (with the Taliban). Even during negotiations such incidents take place,” he added.
Mr Rashid, who is reportedly being considered for the post of information minister, said: “We are not panicky about Taliban’s announcement for withdrawal of the offer for peace talks. We are confident that our noble cause will not be affected by this incident.”
The Taliban withdrew their offer for peace talks and vowed to avenge the killing of Waliur Rehman.
Asked if his party would be able to persuade the TTP to come to the negotiating table despite the death of its important leader and ask it not to insist on revenge, Senator Rashid said: “The PML-N will not only tell the US but also the Taliban to give peace a chance. There has been a lot of bloodshed and now peace should be given a chance.”
Punjab chief minister in-waiting Shahbaz Sharif said: “We will hold talks with the US on the issue of drone attacks because these are against the country’s sovereignty and integrity.”
The PML-N circles are wondering why the US launched the drone attack when had Nawaz Sharif made it clear that he was serious about peace talks with the Taliban. They said the US had even hinted that it had no objection to the incoming government’s initiative for dialogue.
US Ambassador Richard Olson recently told reporters that it was a prerogative of the (PML-N) government to hold talks with Taliban. “The US government has no objection if Pakistan enters into talks with Taliban,” he said. In a speech after winning the May 11 elections, Nawaz Sharif said about 40,000 precious lives hade been lost and the national economy was suffering a loss of billions of dollars (in the war against terrorism).
“Why should not we sit for a dialogue to restore peace? Is it a bad option? No, it is the best available option as guns are not a solution to every problem. Taliban’s dialogue offer should be taken seriously,” he said.