ISLAMABAD, July 15: The Foreign Office lodged protest with the US over drone attacks on Monday, warning that the continued unilateral strikes could set “dangerous precedents” in conduct of inter-state ties.
The protest was prompted by Saturday’s attack in North Waziristan in which two militants riding a motorbike were killed by missiles fired from a CIA operated pilot-less drone. This was 17th strike this year, but the first one after the leaked Abbottabad Commission report revealed a Pak-US “political understanding” on the controversial drone war.
“The government of Pakistan has consistently maintained that drone strikes are counter-productive, entail loss of innocent civilian lives and have human rights and humanitarian implications. Such strikes also set dangerous precedents in the inter-state relations,” Foreign Office Spokesman Aizaz Chaudhry said in a statement on the latest attack.
Pak-US wrangling over the drone attacks that have been taking place since 2004 has continued in public, but the Abbottabad Commission report disclosed that former ISI Chief Lt Gen Shuja Pasha had admitted in his testimony that notwithstanding the breach of national sovereignty, “the drone attacks had their utility”.
He had also acknowledged existence of a political understanding between Islamabad and Washington on the issue even though there wasn’t any written agreement.
There have been 342 drone attacks on Pakistani soil since 2004 in which close to 3,000 people, mostly militants or those associated with them, have been killed.
Protestations against drone strikes are mostly politically driven. But, there is also a realisation that the US precedent of drone attacks may be used by Pakistan’s hostile neighbours, particularly India, for striking inside its territory — something to which the FO statement also referred.
Mirali, the site of the latest attack, is said to be the coordination hub of Al Qaeda and a number of other militant organisations, including Haqqani Network, East Turkistan Islamic Movement, Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-i-Jhangvi.
Done attacks are likely to feature high on the upcoming All Parties Conference for formulating a national counter-terrorism policy.