Pak summons US diplomat to protest fresh drone strike

Pakistan summoned a senior US diplomat to protest against a drone strike that killed four militants in the tribal belt bordering Afghanistan.

Updated: Jun 30, 2012, 18:07 PM IST

Islamabad: Pakistan on Saturday summoned a senior US diplomat to protest against a drone strike that killed four militants in the tribal belt bordering Afghanistan.

Political Counsellor Jonathan Pratt of the US Embassy was summoned to the Foreign Office, where the Director General (Americas) registered a protest over yesterday`s drone attack, Foreign Office spokesman Moazzam Khan said.

Sources said a demarche was handed over to Pratt.

A similar protest was registered in Washington by the Pakistani Embassy, the sources said.

The US yesterday carried out the first drone strike in almost a month in the restive North Waziristan tribal region.

A drone targeted a compound in Miranshah, the main town of the region, killing four suspected militants.

Reports from Miranshah said over 20 militants, including foreign fighters, were living in the compound.

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani linked the issue of asking the US to end drone strikes in Pakistan?s tribal belt to the presence of foreign fighters on the country’s soil, saying these matters would be discussed with the American administration.

Gilani said a joint session of parliament had framed several recommendations, including one on halting drone attacks, for talks with the US aimed at resetting the relationship between the two countries.

"Parliament said these are our recommendations and in light of these recommendations, you hold talks with the US. We have not yet held talks, we have just held preliminary discussions," the premier told reporters on the sidelines of an official function.

"But there is one other thing in the recommendations that you must keep in mind that foreign fighters should be expelled from Pakistani soil. Our soil should not be used against any other country as well," he said in response to a question about the US continuing drone attacks despite public opposition in Pakistan.

"Yes, it`s a package deal that we are working on but it`s a difficult task and that is why the delay is being witnessed in the reopening of NATO supplies, which itself is a very complicated matter and depends on a host of factors such as a public apology by the US for the air assault on Pakistani border posts last year and killing of several of our soldiers," the official said.

The situation in Pakistan`s tribal belt has important implications for American plans to reduce troop levels in neighbouring Afghanistan.

Some in Washington believe Islamabad opposes the drone campaign not because of the issue of sovereignty and collateral damage but due to the elimination of "pro-Pakistan" militants.

However, the official said at the briefing that Pakistan considered al-Qaeda an existential threat.

"Had it not been the case, we would not have apprehended and killed hundreds of al Qaeda operatives," he explained.

Asked about the Haqqani network that is based in North Waziristan Agency, the official conceded that Pakistan`s security agencies maintained contacts with what the Americans call "the deadliest Afghan insurgent group."

"This is an open secret. There are many countries which are not only in contact with the Haqqanis but held talks with them in the past," he said.

He denied that Pakistan was using these contacts to mount attacks against US-led coalition forces in Afghanistan.

"Our policy of seeking a non-military solution to the Afghan imbroglio is somehow being misconstrued in the US as if we are playing a double game," the official claimed.