Drone strike that killed Taliban leader vitiated ties: Pakistan tells US

  • Imtiaz Ahmad, Hindustan Times, Islamabad
  • Updated: Jun 10, 2016 16:46 IST
Pakistani supporters of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) burn a US flag in a protest in Peshawar on May 27 against the US drone strike on Pakistani soil that killed Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour. (AFP)

Pakistan on Friday told the US the drone strike that killed Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour was a violation of the country’s sovereignty and vitiated bilateral ties, reflecting the recent downturn in relations between the two countries.

According to the Foreign Office, Sartaj Aziz, adviser to the prime minister on foreign affairs, “conveyed a strong message” on the May 21 drone strike to a visiting high-level US delegation led by Richard Olson, the US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Peter Lavoy, director for South Asian affairs at the National Security Council.

The US delegation arrived in Islamabad on Friday to discuss the drone strike in Balochistan province that killed the Afghan Taliban chief and to discuss ways to improve bilateral ties.

The drone strike added to tensions between the two sides as it came soon after American lawmakers blocked a subsidy for the sale of eight F-16 jets worth nearly $700 million because of concerns that Pakistan isn’t doing enough to combat terrorism. The US is also set to withhold $300 million in military aid in Pakistan.

Aziz and foreign secretary Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry held “candid discussions” on bilateral relations, the regional security situation and the Afghan peace process in the wake of the drone strike, the Foreign Office said in a statement.

Aziz said the drone strike “was not only a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty” but also vitiated bilateral ties. The Pakistani side “emphasised that any future drone strike in Pakistan will be detrimental to our common desire to strengthen relations”.

The drone strike had “seriously undermined” efforts for Afghan peace and reconciliation process at a time when Pakistan and the members of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group were engaged in efforts to revive peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

In response to queries from the US delegation on safe havens for the Taliban, the Pakistani side it is “pursuing its objective of eliminating all militants and terrorists from its soil”. The statement added that Pakistan expects action by Afghan forces against Taliban operatives in Afghanistan.

Pakistan will have to safeguard its own security through better border management and early repatriation of Afghan refugees. “These steps would also help to promote better relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan and reduce mistrust,” the statement said.

Lavoy said President Barack Obama is committed to improving relations with Pakistan as he had emphasised during Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to Washington last October.

On Thursday, Aziz had called the US a “selfish friend” that always curried favour with Pakistan when self-interest pressed it and left it in the lurch after its interests had been served. He told a news conference that the growing US-India proximity is a cause of worry for Pakistan.

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