Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States Sherry Rehman has maintained that Islamabad continues to deem unilateral drone attacks a violation of humanitarian and international law.
“It hasn’t okayed any American drone strikes on its territory in exchange for Washington’s apology over the Salala attacks,” she said in an interview with CNN.
Referring to the complexities of the drone programme, she said it tests the relationship at every juncture. “And we honestly feel that there are ‘better’ ways now of eliminating al-Qaeda, which has been done with our help. We have been doing that consistently, ridding high and medium value targets consistently. We’re the heavy lifters in this relationship.” Although, the drones may appear as a precise tool to target militants, the damage they do in radicalizing people and challenging the bilateral relationship far outweighs the benefits, she said.
The ambassador said that the drone strikes were not only radicalizing a large population, but was also seen as predatory. “It’s seen as against the law. And it continues to challenge a relationship that can actually accomplish a lot more on the ground than we are doing today in eliminating terrorism.”
Sherry Rehman, who, according to CNN played an instrumental role in resolving the dispute over Salala attacks, reiterated serious concerns the Pakistani people and Islamabad have over drone strikes on its territory. Sherry Rehman said Pakistan considered the drone programme counterproductive and said “the concerns over drones can’t just be brushed aside.”
She said the last week’s expression of remorse by the United States - over killing of Pakistani soldiers in November 26, 2011 in American cross-border attacks on the Salala posts has certainly opened the way for constructive discussions on bilateral relations, but “no, we have not agreed on anything,” she said, and added that many conversations were yet to happen. “As I said, the apology has opened the space for an opportunity where we can have constructive conversations on several strategic issue,” Ms Rehman said in the interview that was conducted by the American news channel’s Christiana Amanpour. The Pakistani ambassador drew attention to the need for acknowledgement of her country’s huge sacrifices and successes in the fight against terror. “We need to understand that Pakistan is looking for some amount of strategic sympathy in the losses we have incurred over the last 10 years. We didn’t have more than one suicide bombing before 2001.” “So it’s not that we are saying that all our troubles or volatility, even within parts of Pakistan, have come as a result of joining force with the United States and Nato. But much of it has. I think there needs to ‘be less tough talk in public’.”
Sherry Rehman forcefully articulated Pakistan’s position against terrorism by saying that “they haunt our own people and our own children, our girl schools, our hospitals, our Sufi shrines. They have bombed our people almost every day, including our police and security services.” She said that it’s not something Americans see, since Pakistan’s sacrifice was not the staple of international television, but over the last ten years, terrorism has transformed the daily reality of its people. “We are a resilient people but it doesn’t help to tell us to ‘continue’ to do more. It is our fight as much as anyone else’s, because we are committed to eliminating terrorism at its root and source,” She said.
Ambassador Sherry Rehman also pointed out the need to bridge the lingering trust deficit between the two countries. “There’s a trust deficit that you know about ‘between’ the two countries, and we must work to build that, because both people are quite able to work together.”
Regarding Shakil Afridi, the Pakistani doctor employed by the CIA in hunt for Osama bin Laden before the al-Qaeda chief’s death in an American cross-border operation last year, the ambassador said the doctor had no knowledge about the goal that he was working for he knew he was contracting with a foreign intelligence agency, but he had no knowledge that he was seeking to bring Osama bin Laden in. “So let’s not lionize him.” The envoy said Dr Afridi was known to contract with terrorist outfits. He was even kidnapped by one, and he was in many transactions on the ground, all over the place. She said no country, including the US would allow its citizens to work with a foreign intelligence agency in secret, whatever the cause. “His conviction is really for contracting with one of the terrorist groups that is waging or attempting to attack our soldiers. We’ve had several martyred recently.”