Al-Qaeda commander targeted in N. Waziristan
Pakistan on Tuesday summoned U.S. Charge d'Affaires Richard Hoagland to the Foreign Ministry to convey the government's serious concern over repeated drone strikes. A separate demarche was lodged with him on the seizure of unauthorised weapons from U.S. diplomats in Peshawar.
Mr. Hoagland was told that drone strikes represent a “clear red line for Pakistan'' as they are unlawful, against international law and a violation of sovereignty. Though similar messages have been communicated to the U.S. in the past, the CIA-operated drones regularly visit the tribal areas of Pakistan to bomb suspected terrorist hideouts.
The Charge d' Affaires was summoned in the wake of three consecutive days of drone visits. The New York Times reported that the target of Monday's attack in North Waziristan was Abu Yahya al-Libi, an al-Qaeda commander of Libyan nationality who escaped American custody in 2005 and became the outfit's deputy leader after Osama bin Laden's death.
Though the drone attacks allegedly have the tacit support of Pakistan's civil and military establishment, the public stance of the political class and security set-up is vociferously against the CIA programme that has become a key tool of U.S. President Barack Obama's fight against terrorism.
The recovery of weapons from two American diplomats travelling from Malakand to Peshawar on Monday has added a new irritant to the already frayed bilateral relationship. The two were stopped on the Motorway. Though they were allowed to go, their weapons were seized as the two were not authorised to carry arms.
Mr. Hoagland was told that carrying of unauthorised weapons by diplomats was unacceptable and contrary to both Pakistani law and accepted norms of diplomatic conduct.
Meanwhile, the Salala checkpost in Mohmand agency along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border came under attack on Monday night from terrorists. One security personnel and several terrorists were reportedly killed in the crossfire. Salala has been in the news for the past six months now since NATO helicopters attacked a Pakistan Army post there killing 24 soldiers leading to the closure of NATO supply lines and the current stand-off.
As the stalemate continued over reopening the supply lines even as NATO has tied up agreements with three Central Asian countries for routes out of Afghanistan when troop withdrawals start, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar again demanded an apology for the Salala incident from the U.S.
Though it had appeared that Pakistan had softened its position vis-à-vis an apology over the past couple of weeks in the hope of clinching a favourable price from NATO for the supply lines, Ms. Khar has taken it up again in an interview to Foreign Policy magazine.
An apology, she said, “is something which should have been forthcoming the day this incident happened, and what a partnership not only demands, but requires”.