US accused of scuttling talks
Interior minister Chaudhry Nisar on Saturday accused the United States of "scuttling" efforts towards peace talks with the Taliban by killing the militants' leader in a drone strike. Chaudhry Nisar said "every aspect" of Pakistan's co-operation with Washington would be reviewed following Friday's drone attack that killed Hakimullah Mehsud in the country's tribal north-west.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2013
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2013
A team of religious clerics was hours away from setting off to meet the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) with a view to starting peace talks when Mehsud was killed, Nisar told a news conference. "Brick by brick in the last seven weeks we tried to evolve a process by which we could bring peace to Pakistan and what have you (the US) done?" he said.
"You have scuttled it on the eve, 18 hours before a formal delegation of respected ulema (religious scholars) was to fly to Miranshah and hand over this formal invitation." Nisar said the identity of those killed in the drone strike was "irrelevant". "The government of Pakistan does not see this drone attack as an attack on an individual but as an attack on the peace process," he said.
BR Staff Reporter Fazal Sher adds: Nisar said the recent drone strike in North Wazirstan was a serious blow to the peace talks with Taliban and termed it an attack on regional peace. He said the drone strike should not be viewed as the killing of Hakimullah Mehsud or an individual, but it must be seen as an attack on regional peace. Nisar also revealed that the press conference had been originally scheduled to announce a major development with regard to peace talks with Taliban. He said that instead we have to make an announcement that a three-member delegation comprising Ulema had left to formally invite the Taliban for a dialogue.
He said that a meeting of federal cabinet and Cabinet Committee on National Security would be convened in the next few days to review the entire perspective of Pakistan-US relations and co-operation. "A meeting of leadership of all political parties would also be convened to take them into confidence on the emerging situation in the wake of drone strike," he said.
Nisar said it had also been decided that Pakistan's ambassadors in the capitals of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council would brief the host governments on the latest developments including a severe setback to peace efforts in the region. Ambassador of the United States was also summoned and served a demarche and he was told that the US had carried out drone attack despite public assurance on the contrary.
The Interior Minister said that as a result of intense behind-the-scene efforts of the last seven weeks after an All-Parties Conference (APC) ‚ it was decided to send a three-member delegation of Ulema to meet the Taliban representatives. "Contacts were established with Taliban and ground rules were set for the talks," he said. He said that it was decided that Ulema delegation would hold discussions with Taliban representatives on the agenda and the venue of the formal peace talks.
The Interior Minister said he himself conveyed to the American ambassador to take the present government stance on cessation of drone attacks seriously and convey the same to his administration. "The ambassador was also informed if TTP was attacked during the peace process, then their credibility among the public would erode further," he said.
Nisar said that the US agreed not to carry out drone attacks during dialogue process but attached three conditions that Pakistan should make a formal demand for the purpose; drone attacks would not target TTP but continue against others and Hakimullah Mehsud would be targeted, if spotted. "We have rejected all three demands of the US," he said.
He said it was surprising that the US did not target Hakimullah Mehsud when he moved on both sides of the Durand Line, but was attacked just on the eve of beginning of the dialogue process. He also said the attack was a major incident, but there would be no logic to exact revenge from innocent Pakistanis. He said that the government of Pakistan did not carry out this attack. "The government demonstrated tolerance during the last seven weeks when bomb blasts targeted armed forces personnel and innocent people and now the other side should demonstrate tolerance and show commitment to the dialogue process", he said.