Killing of Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud in drone attack is described as a fatal blow to peace talks between the government and the Pakistani Talibans.
Hakimullah Mehsud, who had a $5 million US government bounty on him, was killed Friday along with three other Taliban leaders when a US drone fired two missiles at a vehicle in a compound in the village of Dandey Darpakhel, five kilometres north of Miranshah, the main town of North Waziristan.
Interior Minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan Saturday said the death of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leader, Hakimullah Mehsud was in fact a fatal blow to the peace process in the region.
"The identity of those killed in the drone strike was "irrelevant". The strike should not be viewed as the killing of Hakimullah Mehsud, but rather as the murder of the peace process", he told a press conference in Islamabad.
The interior minister also revealed that this news conference had been originally scheduled to announce a major development with regard to peace talks. "Had Mehsud not been killed I would have been making an announcement that a three member delegation comprising Ulema (religious leaders) was on its way to Taliban so that they could be formally invited for negotiations."
On the other hand, Federal Information Minister Pervez Rashid told reporters in Islamabad that the government wanted to press ahead with its plan to negotiate with Mehsud's Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). "We can say that this time drone struck the peace talks but we will not let the peace talks die."
Rashid said Pakistan was committed to peace through talks despite losing 40,000-50,000 civilians, soldiers, and police to militant violence. "So I am sure that the other party will show the same spirit which we had shown," he said.
The killing of Hakimullah Mehsud came one day after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told the British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg in London that talks have started with the Pakistani Taliban. Sharif was elected in part by promising to negotiate with militants in the country's northwest who have killed thousands of civilians and security forces.
Opposition politician Imran Khan condemned the drone strike as an attempt to "sabotage" peace efforts, and called for the federal government to block Nato supplies going through the country.
Imran said the US is sabotaging efforts to establish peace in Pakistan by drone strikes in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. "Whenever the initiatives of peace talks are taken, US drone strikes sabotage them," he said. The PTI chief said his party would table resolutions for blocking Nato supplies in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly and the National Assembly.
Pakistan government condemns the drone attack
Not surprisingly, strongly condemning the US drone attack in North Waziristan, the Pakistani government reiterated that these strikes are a violation of the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity. Foreign Office Spokesman Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry in a statement said there was an across the board consensus in Pakistan that these drone strikes must end.
He said the government has consistently maintained that drone strikes are counter-productive, entail loss of innocent civilian lives and have human rights and humanitarian implications. Such strikes also set dangerous precedents in bilateral relations, he added.
The spokesman said these strikes have a negative impact on the mutual desire of both US and Pakistan to forge a cordial and cooperative relationship and to ensure peace and stability in the region.
Pakistan on Saturday summoned US ambassador to Islamabad, Richard Olson and lodged its protest over the US drone strike that killed Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud. According to Foreign Office spokesman, Pakistan handed over to Richard Olson a letter protesting against the recent US drone attack that took out Hakimullah Mehsud, leader of the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and his aides.
Pakistan-US agreement on drone attacks