Prime Minister’s Advisor on National Security and Foreign Affairs, Mr Sartaj Aziz, claimed that the US has assured Pakistan of halting drone attacks until the ‘peace process’ with TTP is complete. The statement made headlines, and was understandably received with much skepticism. But even a pessimist couldn’t have imagined just how soon Mr Sartaj Aziz would be forced to eat his words, as the very next day, a US drone strike targeted a seminary in Hangu district, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK).

This is only the second time a drone strike has been conducted outside the tribal agencies of FATA, and in a settled area under the PTI-led coalition government’s control. At least 8 people were killed and several more injured. It was the presence of key figures belonging to the Haqqani network that attracted the drone strike. While PTI Chairman, Imran Khan, claims that innocent teachers and students were targeted, DPO Iftikhar Ahmed has revealed the identities of the deceased to be Mufti Hamidullah Haqqani, Maulvi Ahmed Jan, Abdul Rehman – all three key figure, belonging to the Haqqani network, Jan being advisor to chief Sirajuddin Haqqani.

This is a major development and points to several issues: a drone strike further penetrating into Pakistan’s territory a day after a statement by a seasoned and reputedly responsible diplomat raises serious questions over the state of US-Pak relationships. It is obvious that the federal government’s efforts to convince Washington have resulted in complete failure. The strike appears to have taken PM Nawaz Sharif’s government by surprise which is struggling to contain the anger of the masses over its inability to disrupt the US drone program in the country, and the vagueness that surrounds its security and foreign policy. The federal government must answer where it stands on issues with its “strategic allies”, and explain the communication breakdown which is apparent from this recent development.

The incident is likely to narrow the rift that had appeared between the Haqqani network and TTP, after the latter accused the former of providing intelligence for the drone strike that killed Hakimullah Mehsud. It is alleged that the murder of Nasiruddin Haqqani, in Islamabad, was in retaliation by TTP against their traditional allies. Furthermore, the strike has given Mr Imran Khan a timely opportunity to give the false impression of the severe security crisis in Pakistan being drone-centric. It will also help his party’s demand for the blockage of NATO supplies until drone attacks cease to occur. Opposition to drones is justified and must continue, but it would be nice to see the political leadership spare a few words over the presence of militants in Pakistani territory, and reveal what steps, if any, are being taken to curb this free movement.