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Drone strikes a violation of sovereignty, says FO

October 08, 2010

ISLAMABAD, Oct 7 The American apology on the violation of Pakistani airspace by Isaf helicopters and the deaths of Pakistani border guards may have healed a bruised national ego, but on Thursday it brought into the limelight the government's half-hearted criticism of drone attacks.

Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit had to face a volley of questions at the weekly media briefing from a host of reporters who were all interested in finding out why the government stayed so quiet on drone attacks that targeted Pakistani citizens.

The question on everybody's lips is Why couldn't the government have protested in a similarly strong manner the drone strikes in the tribal areas that have been killing people since 2004?

There have been so far close to 170 attacks in total, but can anyone remember when Islamabad last lodged a protest with the US or summoned the American ambassador on the issue? This year has seen the highest number of attacks in the country since 2004.

But all they could get from Mr Basit was the usual rigmarole — Islamabad had conveyed its position on drone strikes to Washington and expected it (Washington) to revisit its policy. “We have been articulating our position on drone attacks. We believe those are counterproductive and also a violation of our sovereignty. We have been expressing our reservations and we hope that the US will revisit its policy which goes back to the Bush administration,” the spokesman said.

Mr Basit tried his best to convince journalists that there was no understanding with the Americans on drones. “Neither is there any justification nor any understanding.”

Official documents shared with Dawn, however, show that even though there may be no deal in black and white between Washington and Islamabad on drone attacks, government is not averse to the attacks — the public posturing aside. The documents that defined the oft-mentioned 'Red Lines', which have been communicated to the Obama administration, read “No extension of drone attacks to Balochistan.” Does this imply that attacks in Fata are acceptable? The answer is left to one's imagination.

Sources suggest that Pakistan's foreign policy managers are convinced that the drones were successful in taking out terrorists who had sanctuaries in the tribal areas.