Even before dust could settle on the stand-off over the Raymond Davis issue, Pakistan-U.S. relations have hit a particularly rough patch again; this time over the contentious drone attacks with Islamabad crying foul over Thursday's Predator strikes that killed over a score people attending a tribal jirga in North Waziristan along the Afghanistan border.
Pakistan registered a strong protest with the U.S. on Friday; summoning Ambassador Cameron Munter to the Foreign Office where he was categorically told by Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir that such strikes were not only “unacceptable” but also constituted a “flagrant violation of humanitarian norms and law”.
Maintaining that Pakistan should not be taken for granted nor treated as a “client state,” the Foreign Office said it was evident that the fundamentals of bilateral relations need revisiting. “It was for the White House and the State Department to hold back those who have been trying to veer Pakistan-U.S. relationship away from the track,” the Foreign Office statement said without any reference to the Central Intelligence Agency which controls the drone attacks. Davis was believed to have been a CIA operative.
According to the statement, Mr. Munter said he understood clearly that this was not a “proforma demarche”. Pakistan also informed the Ambassador that given the circumstances, Islamabad would not participate in the upcoming trilateral meeting between Afghanistan-Pakistan-U.S. in Brussels. This meeting - initially scheduled for February - was postponed by the U.S. in the wake of the Davis-related stand-off.
Earlier, the political and military leadership condemned the drone attacks with Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani stating that this would only strengthen radical and extremist elements as it negatively impacts efforts to separate militants from peaceful and patriotic tribesmen of the area.
In a rare statement, Chief of Army Staff Ashfaq Parvez Kayani said it was highly regrettable that a jirga of peaceful citizens including elders of the area was “carelessly and callously” targeted with complete disregard to human life. “In complete violation of human rights, such acts of violence take us away from our objective of elimination of terrorism. It is imperative to understand that this critical objective can not be sacrificed for temporary tactical gains.”
The tribal leaders of North Waziristan have vowed to avenge the drone attacks; pointing out in a statement accessed by the BBC that “we are a people who wait 100 years to exact revenge. The world should try and find out how many of the 40-odd people killed in the attack were Al-Qaeda members.”
The day also saw protests across the country against the release of Davis. With nerves frayed, some analysts were again suggesting that Pakistan should use the leverage it has - land route for a bulk of the supplies for the coalition forces in Afghanistan - to put an end to the drone attacks; a strategy used last year when NATO helicopters attacked Frontier Corps posts on this side of the Durand Line.