Islamabad: Hours after a US drone strike in North Waziristan, Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf on Thursday expressed Pakistan`s opposition to the campaign by the CIA-operated spy planes and said the two sides should find "alternative ways to eliminate terrorists".
Ashraf raised the issue of drone strikes in the backdrop of today`s attack on a compound in North Waziristan when US Ambassador Richard Olson called on the premier at his official residence this morning.
This was the maiden courtesy call on the premier by Olson, who recently took over as the US envoy.
"Expressing his concern over the drone attacks, the Prime Minister said that they are counterproductive and we need to find alternative means to eliminate terrorists," said a statement issued by the premier`s office.
The CIA`s drone campaign has emerged as a major irritant in US-Pakistan ties in recent months.
Pakistani authorities provided tacit backing for the campaign when it was launched during the military regime of former President Pervez Musharraf and the current Pakistan Peoples Party-led government had initially continued with the support.
Strong opposition from the public and hardline groups has forced the government to do a rethink on the drone strikes.
Over the past few months, senior American diplomats have been summoned to the Foreign Office several times for formal protests against the drone strikes.
During his meeting with Olson, Ashraf contended that
"things have improved considerably since 2008, when the media was rife with statements that terrorists were near Islamabad".
He said: "The present government, with the support of the people, international community (and) law enforcement agencies, has succeeded in pushing these terrorists and is confident that they would be wiped out".
Ashraf further said, "We are fighting against those who attack our mosques, schools, cantonments and innocent civilians and children. We know we have to do a lot, but we will wipe them out".
Olson noted the concerns of the government and people of Pakistan and said he would convey these concerns to US authorities, the statement said.
The US envoy was quoted as saying that the international community does not appreciate Pakistan`s contributions in the war on terrorism "as much as it should".
Ashraf expressed the hope that Pakistan-US relations would be further strengthened during Olson`s tenure as his experience of the region will be helpful in creating a better understanding between the two countries.
He added that recent interactions between two countries at different levels "have been very encouraging".
Olson said the US wants a long-term relationship with Pakistan based on "mutual respect and common interest".
He said the US was encouraged by the recent visits to Pakistan by Afghan High Peace Council Chairman Salahuddin Rabbani and Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassuol and the visit to Kabul by Pakistan Army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.
Pakistan and the US have been grappling to reset their relations after a string of crises, including the killing of two Pakistani men by a CIA contractor in Lahore early last year, the unilateral American raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad in May 2011 and the death of 24 Pakistani soldiers in a cross-border NATO air strike in November last year.