ISLAMABAD - Pakistan on Tuesday summoned the US charge d’affaires Richard Hoagland to the foreign ministry to convey its ‘serious concerns’ over drone strikes.
According to a statement issued by Foreign Office, he was officially conveyed the government’s serious concern regarding drone strikes in Pakistani territory.
He was told that the drone strikes were unlawful, against international law and a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty. The Parliament had emphatically stated that they were unacceptable. Drone strikes represented a clear redline for Pakistan.
The statement further said that a second and separate demarche was lodged with Ambassador Hoagland on the seizure of unauthorised weapons that were in possession of US diplomats in Peshawar. He was informed that carrying of unauthorized weapons by the diplomats was un-acceptable and contrary to both Pakistani law and accepted norms of diplomatic conduct.
Agencies add: The US State Department, responding to a question on Monday regarding Pakistani Foreign Office’s demand that the drone strikes should be discontinued forthwith, has declined to comment on the subject terming it an ‘intelligence matter’.
“I can’t talk specifically about classified operations,” said Mark Toner, deputy spokesperson of the US State Department in a briefing. He, however, hinted between the lines without using the exact words that drones were part of the American administration’s fight against Al-Qaeda in Pakistan and there was still no chance that these operations would be stopped.
“Speaking more broadly as we’ve said many times, we share a common interest with Pakistan when it comes to going after Al-Qaeda, and then seeing a stable Pakistan emerge in the region. As we’ve said many times, Pakistan faces a strong core threat from these extremist groups, and we’re committed to cooperating with them in counter-terrorism,” he stated. He also refused to confirm reports that senior Qaeda operative, Abu Yahya al-Libi, was taken out in the drone strike carried out in North Waziristan, in Pakistan’s tribal areas. “No. I can’t confirm that,” he quipped.
On the ongoing negotiations for reopening of Nato supply routes in Pakistan, he said that there was not much headway on this issue. He, however, informed that the US Deputy Secretary of State, Thomas Nides, in cooperation with the Department of Defense, did speak with Pakistan’s Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh over the weekend on this issue.
“He once again made our case on why we believe it’s in everyone’s interest to reopen these lines of communication, and we’re going to continue to make that at various levels, that case,” the deputy spokesman said. He, however, disagreed that the discussion with the Pakistani Finance Minister was about the financial demands made by the country for reopening g-locks.
“We do, obviously, continue to talk to the Pakistani government. This is a government-to-government conversation, and it’s an issue at which we’re engaging the Pakistanis on at a variety of levels,” he stressed.
The State Department’s deputy spokesman was also asked about another case in Pakistan where a court acquitted four alleged accomplices of Faisal Shahzad, New York’s Times Square bombing accused. “I did see that court decision from the weekend. I don’t have a lot to say. I mean, obviously, we want to see the Pakistani Government pursue prosecution in these kinds of cases. But obviously, it was a legal process that took place and a legal decision or a court decision was made,” he dilated.
Toner said the US was still awaiting a clarification from Pakistan on Dr Shakeel Afridi’s case.
He said,” We’ve not received any updates. And our position’s very clear.”
“I did see that, court decision. I don’t have a lot to say, we want to see the Pakistani Government pursue prosecution in these kinds of cases.”
He said the US didn’t think there were ever any grounds for Pakistan to hold him, much less convict him of any wrongdoing.
Toner added this was a case where the Government of Pakistan brought these individuals to trial for their complicity in this case, adding there was a trial that took place, unfortunately, they didn’t win that trial, but US believed it’s important that they did pursue justice.
Toner said, “There was this weird reversal, last week on which they said, in fact, he was tried and again, I’m going just off of news reports - because of his ties to the Pakistani Taliban.”
“And we’ve yet to receive from the government, to my understanding or to my knowledge, a clear explanation of that shift.”