KARACHI: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Sunday criticised the drone strike which the US carried out in Balochistan a day earlier and said that a strong protest had been lodged with the US over the attack.
Talking to reporters after his arrival in London for a medical check-up, he described the air strike in the Dalbandin area of Balochistan as a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty.
Mr Sharif was quoted by TV channels as having said that it was not clear that Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansour was among the two people reportedly killed in the air strike, adding that details of the incident were still being collected.
A statement issued by the Foreign Office in Islamabad said the US had shared the information that a drone strike had been carried out in Pakistan near the Pak-Afghan border in which Mansour was targeted. The information was shared with Prime Minister Sharif and Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif after the strike.
The FO statement said that on the basis of information gathered till late Sunday a person identified as Wali Muhammad, son of Shah Muhammad, who carried a Pakistani passport and an identity card and who was a resident of Qila Abdullah, entered Pakistan through the Taftan border on Saturday.
His passport bore a valid Iranian visa. He was travelling on a vehicle hired from a transport company in Taftan. The vehicle was found destroyed at Kochaki along the Pak-Afghan border.
The driver was identified as Muhammad Azam whose body had been identified and handed over to his relatives.
The identity of the second body was being verified on the basis of evidence found at the scene and other relevant information.
The statement said that while investigations were being carried out, “Pakistan wishes to once again state that the drone attack was a violation of its sovereignty, an issue which has been raised with the United States in the past as well”.
The FO said that the fifth meeting of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group held on May 18 had reiterated that a politically negotiated settlement was the only viable option for a lasting peace in Afghanistan and called upon the Taliban to give up violence and join peace talks.
A senior leader of the Afghan Taliban said that Mansour had been killed. Mullah Abdul Rauf told The Associated Press on Sunday that Mansour died in the air strike late on Friday night. However, a Wall Street Journal report quoted the Taliban officials in Afghanistan as saying that their leader was alive.
A member of the Taliban who is close to the militant leadership distributed a message to some associates promising to release an audio message proving Mansour was still alive.
“The attack did occur and some important military persons were there, but Mansour was not among them,” Mullah Abdul Samad Sani said, according to a person who received the message. “Now we deny it officially and in the next three days we will release Mansour’s audio message.”
A member of the Taliban press team, Emran Khalil, also published a tweet, calling the news “completely wrong”.
People close to the Taliban said the strike took place as senior ‘commanders’ were travelling to attend a wedding in a Pakistani village.
The Taliban’s chief justice official, Mullah Shaikh Abdul Hakim, could have been among those killed in the strike, they said.
Published in Dawn, May 23rd, 2016