ISLAMABAD: Two hours after her official briefing, Foreign Office spokesperson Tasneem Aslam confirmed and condemned two pre-dawn US drone strikes that struck militant hideouts in North Waziristan in the past 24 hours.
“The government of Pakistan condemns the two incidents of US drone strikes that took place near Miramshah in North Waziristan on 11 and 12 June,” said a statement from the foreign office.
“These strikes are a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and additionally, these strikes have a negative impact on the government’s efforts to bring peace and stability in Pakistan and the region,” it said.
Earlier during her briefing, Alsam had said that facts were being ascertained and added that Pakistan’s position on drones is very clear.
Meanwhile, foreign news agency Reuters reported that two top government officials said Islamabad had given the Americans “express approval” for the strikes – the first time Pakistan has admitted to such cooperation.
Without naming the officials, the news agency reported that just weeks after peace talks with the militants stalled, a “joint Pakistan-US operation” had been ordered to hit the insurgents.
Another official told Reuters that Pakistan had asked the United States for help after the Karachi airport attack on Sunday, and would be intensifying air strikes on militant hideouts in coming days.
“The attacks were launched with the express approval of the Pakistan government and army,” an anonymous government official was quoted by Reuters as saying.
“It is now policy that the Americans will not use drones without permission from the security establishment here. There will be complete coordination and Pakistan will be in the loop.”
“We understand that drones will be an important part of our fight against the Taliban now,” the official added.
The American drone program is extremely unpopular in Pakistan because it is perceived as killing innocent civilians, which the US denies. In the past, the Pakistani government has strongly condemned drone strikes – maintaining a stance that strikes violate the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The FO and government have previously raised concern over drone strikes with the US administration and at the United Nations, saying the attacks are counter-productive, entail loss of innocent civilian lives and have human rights and humanitarian implications.
Two successive US drone strikes killed at least 16 suspected militants in Pakistan's northwest tribal area early Thursday, as pressure was building on Islamabad to react after the brazen attack on Karachi airport.
The first strike late Wednesday was said to have targeted a vehicle and a compound near the Afghan border in Tabbi village, killing four Uzbek militants.
Sources told DawnNews that the second strike in Dand-i Darpakhel area reported early Thursday killed key Haqqani network commander Haji Gul as well as prominent Afghan Taliban commanders.
These were the year’s first such strikes in Pakistan’s tribal belt bordering Afghanistan.
The last US drone attack on Pakistani soil was carried out on December 25, 2013, killing three suspected militants. The strikes had been temporarily halted at the government's request.
Use of foreign weapons in Karachi airport attack being investigated
Responding to a question, the foreign office spokesman said the attack on the Jinnah International Airport in Karachi and the use of foreign-made weapons was being probed, and that Pakistan does not have "a habit of leveling allegations without investigation or evidence".
She said a comprehensive probe into the incident had been launched to determine the facts.
Responding to a question, Aslam said Pakistan supported a peaceful and democratic transfer of power in Afghanistan.
About the second phase of the Afghan Presidential elections on 14 June 2014, she said these elections are a milestone in the democratic journey of the Afghan people and that Pakistan congratulates the government and people of Afghanistan on this achievement.
“We reiterate that these elections are an Afghan affair, with the Afghan electoral institutions in the lead. They bear a heavy responsibility, and we wish them well in accomplishing their task successfully. We also hope that the voters would once again demonstrate their firm resolve and exercise their right to determine their future through democratic means, in an optimal way,” she told reporters.
She said Pakistan remains committed to supporting efforts for a free and peaceful electoral process. “On the eve of the first round on 5 April 2014, Pakistan had taken special steps to beef up security along the border and our authorities are taking additional measures for the second round of elections, including by retaining additional troops for this purpose,” she said.
“The measures include enhanced vigilance and security along the border, enhanced patrolling in close border/border crossing areas, enhanced checking by immigration staff, enhanced communication through existing coordination and cooperation mechanism, and availability of hotline contact with Afghan counterparts,” she added.
“As a close neighbor and fraternal nation, Pakistan stands committed to supporting the Afghan people in every possible way in their quest for peace and progress,” she added.