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November 3, 2013

Pakistan to review relations with US: Nisar

November 3, 2013

ISLAMABAD: Terming the killing of the TTP chief Hakimullah Mehsud in Friday’s drone strike an ‘ambush on the dialogue process’ with the Taliban, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan on Saturday said the government of Pakistan would review all aspects of its relations with the United States.
Speaking to media persons at the Punjab House here after chairing a high-level meeting, Nisar said the US had actually killed the dialogue process with the Taliban by killing Hakimullah Mehsud, and urged the militant outfit not to let the US policy succeed and stick to their decision to talk out the differences.
“Actually, Hakimullah Mehsud’s murder is a fatal blow to the dialogue process between Pakistan and the TTP to keep peace in the region but it has been intercepted,” said the minister.
“The strike should not be viewed as the killing of one person, Hakimullah Mehsud, but rather as the murder of the peace process,” he elaborated.
“I want to give the message that those who have scampered the peace process should have tolerance; we must all play our part in this process,” Nisar said.
He said he had asked the TTP leadership to ignore every negative aspect of the episode, as the government of Pakistan was not involved in the attack and it always opposed such attacks. He said the Foreign Officer will summon the US ambassador and serve him with a demarche.
“With the planned visit of the government’s delegation to North Waziristan to initiate a peace dialogue with the Taliban in jeopardy after Friday’s drone strike, the dialogue process has been affected badly,” said Nisar.
The minister disclosed that his news conference was actually arranged to announce a major development with regard to the peace talks.
“We were to make an announcement that a three-member delegation, comprising Ulema, had left to formally invite the Taliban for negotiations,” he maintained.
“We tried to evolve a process brick by brick in the

last seven weeks through which we could bring peace to Pakistan and what has the US done to us?” the minister asked.
“You have wiped it out on the eve, violating your commitment just 18 hours before a formal delegation of respected Ulema was to fly to Miranshah and hand this formal invitation over to them”, he said. Every aspect of Pakistan’s cooperation and relations with Washington will be reviewed following the situation created after Mehsud’s killing,” Nisar said.
“The strike came just hours before a three-member delegation, led by the JUI-F, was supposed to travel to Miranshah and initiate talks with the Taliban,” the interior minister said.
Nisar said during their talks with various US officials, including the Secretary of State John Kerry, Pakistan had urged a complete halt to drone strikes, especially during the peace talks.
“The US promised it will not target the TTP but only those fighters who were crossing into Afghanistan along with Hakimullah Mehsud,” Nisar said, adding that Pakistan had accepted their condition and objected to those as well as any strike in its territory since it could undermine the peace talks.
Nisar also questioned the timing of Friday’s strike, asking why the US targeted Mehsud on the eve of talks when there had been numerous opportunities to target him in the past.
Rejecting the perception that the government was involved in Friday’s drone strike, the minister said the official view of the strike was that it was an “ambush on peace talks” with the Taliban.
He said five decisions had been taken in a high level meeting and the first of them was that the US ambassador was being summoned to the Foreign Office where he will be served with a demarche.
Secondly, he said, the Foreign Office and Pakistan’s ambassadors were being activated to approach the permanent members of the UN Security Council to take them in confidence on the fresh drone strike to chalk out a future course of action.
He said the federal cabinet and the Defence Committee of the Cabinet had also been called to devise a future course of action as soon as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif gets back home.
He said all political parties which supported the peace process despite reservations (the MQM) or differences of opinion (the PTI) will be taken into confidence while deciding the future course of action.
He said the decision had been taken in a meeting with Advisor to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz in the chair.
PM’s Special Assistant Tariq Fatemi‚ the foreign and interior secretaries and officials of different security agencies attended the meeting.
The minister said he was also in contact with the prime minister and that several meetings were expected on the issue once he got back home.
Agencies add: The interior minister said 9/11 was a great tragedy but questioned why thousands of Pakistanis lost their lives in the war against terror when the attackers of New York were not Pakistanis.
“Why did Pakistan have to pay a price for the New York tragedy?”
Nisar said he had himself conveyed to the US ambassador to take the government of Pakistan seriously on the cessation of drone attacks and convey to his administration in Washington that if drone attacks continued there was going to be a stand-off between the two countries.
He said the Americans were categorically told that if the TTP was targeted then their credibility in Pakistan would further erode, strengthening the impression among the people of Pakistan that the US was opposed to the peace efforts.
He said the US agreed not to carry out drone attacks during the dialogue process but attached three conditions: Pakistan should make a formal demand for the purpose, drones would not target the TTP but continue against others, and Hakimullah Mehsud would be targeted if spotted.
He said all the three demands were firmly rejected. Ultimately, the minister said the US gave a commitment not to launch drone strikes during the dialogue process.
Nisar said it was intriguing that the US did not target Hakimullah Mehsud when he moved on both sides of the Durand Line but he was attacked just on the eve of the beginning of the dialogue process.

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