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In Pakistan, family of US drone strike victim demand justice

world Updated: Jun 10, 2016 15:56 IST
Mullah Akhtar Mansour

A Pakistani police officer and paramedics stand beside the bodies of the two men killed in a US drone strike in in Baluchistan province in Pakistan on May 22. A senior commander of the Afghan Taliban confirmed on Sunday that the extremist group's leader, Mullah Mohammad Akhtar Mansour, had been killed in the strike. (AP)

Pakistan’s government met senior US officials on Friday to discuss the fallout from a May 21 drone attack that killed Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansour, while the family of the taxi driver who died alongside Mansour demanded justice.

Peter Lavoy, head of Washington’s South Asia desk at the National Security Council and Richard Olson, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, met with Pakistani civilian and military leaders in the first high level exchange since the drone strike, according to Pakistan’s foreign ministry.

In a statement following their meeting, Sartaj Aziz, Pakistan’s special adviser on foreign affairs, said the discussions were candid. According to the statement, the two sides restated their positions.

Pakistan affirmed that the drone strike breached its sovereignty and compromised an already stalled Afghan peace process, while the US reiterated its accusation that Pakistan is providing safe havens for the Taliban in Pakistan.

Read: DNA test confirms Mansour’s death in US drone attack: Pak

At the time of the drone attack, Mansour was travelling with a Pakistani passport and identity card, infuriating the US and Afghanistan who said this was proof of the ease with which Taliban fighters are travelling throughout Pakistan.

Mansour’s taxi driver, Mohammed Azam, was also killed in the attack. His family said they were outraged that they have not yet received an apology from the United States or recognition of Azam’s innocence. As a result, they have gone to the police, demanding justice.

In the police report, a copy of which AP acquired, his elder brother Qasim said Mohammad Azam was innocent of any crime. He said Mohammad was not aware of the identity of his passenger and demanded that the police and local Baluchistan provincial government officials conduct an investigation to identify the culprits. He called for “justice.”

The police complaint doesn’t define what form that justice should take, but in a handwritten note at the bottom of the complaint one local official wrote that he had begun an investigation.

Read: Brother of slain Taliban chief’s driver presses charges against US

In a telephone interview with AP from his home in the town of Taftan, close to the Iranian border, Qasim said his 33-year-old brother had worked as a taxi driver for most of his adult life, earning roughly 20,000 rupees (about $200) a month.

It was just his bad luck that his final passenger turned out to be the Taliban chief, Qasim said.