ISLAMABAD, Nov 20: Pakistan summoned US Ambassador Anne W Patterson to the Foreign Office on Thursday and lodged a protest against Wednesday’s drone strike in Bannu, a settled area of the NWFP.
“A strong protest was lodged by Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir on the two missiles fired by US drones on a residential compound in Bannu district,” Foreign Office Spokesman Mohammad Sadiq said at his weekly briefing.
Calling for an immediate halt to drone strikes, the foreign secretary told the ambassador that such attacks violated Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The spokesman referred to what he called ‘doublespeak’ and said there appeared to be an institutional disconnect in the US. Besides, its European allies also differed on these attacks.
The ambassador, who was called to the Foreign Office for the third time in a few months, said she would convey Islamabad’s concerns to Washington.
Talking to a delegation of the German media, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi also denounced the Bannu strike and said that attacks from across the border were counter-productive and harmed the government’s efforts to stamp out militancy and extremism.
Referring to Aafia Siddiqui’s case, the FO spokesman said that after comments of a US court about her health condition she should be immediately repatriated to Pakistan.
“Her return to Pakistan will greatly facilitate her speedy rehabilitation. We are continuing our efforts to seek Dr Aafia’s early return to Pakistan.”
The spokesman rejected as ‘unauthentic’ the elections being held in Indian-occupied Kashmir.
“The ongoing IOK elections cannot be construed as authentic expression of the real aspirations of the Kashmiri people,” Mr Sadiq said.
The elections have been boycotted by the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, an umbrella organisation of 23 pro-independence Kashmiri political parties.
Pakistan, he said, had always upheld the inalienable right of the Kashmiri people to realise their legitimate aspirations in accordance with relevant UN resolutions.
He said the India would be asked to share the findings of an inquiry into Samjhauta Express explosion at the meeting of the interior secretaries of the two countries in Islamabad on Nov 25.
“Samjhauta Express blast is a subject of discussion between Pakistan and India. As you know a number of Pakistani citizens died in that blast. We will be asking the Indian authorities to share their findings on Samjhauta Express explosion with us,” the spokesman said.
The Mumbai anti-terrorist squad had claimed that Lt-Col Shrikant Purohit, who was arrested in connection with the Malegaon blast, was also involved in the 2007 Samjhauta blast.
The spokesman acknowledged that intra-Kashmir trade launched recently with much fanfare was slowing down.
“There are certain logistic issues which have slowed down the intra-Kashmir trade. The two sides are working to overcome these issues which are dampening commercial exchanges,” the spokesman noted.
He hoped that political commitment from both sides would help the trade to flourish.
Mr Sadiq said a UN fact-finding commission on the assassination of Benazir Bhutto would be constituted in a few weeks.
“We are fairly close to an announcement from the UN on modalities of the inquiry.”
The probe, the spokesman said, would bring credibility to the findings.The government had requested the UN for a Hariri-style investigation into Ms Bhutto’s assassination, but UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon after thorough deliberations agreed only to set up a fact-finding commission.
However, Mr Sadiq saw no difference between an investigation commission and a fact-finding commission.