Wednesday, October 23, 2013

US must end drone strikes in Pakistan as this is continued violation of our territorial integrity – PM Nawaz Sharif

The US must end drone strikes in Pakistan on the pretext of the war on terrorism; Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said ahead of his crucial meeting with US President Barack Obama at the White House on Wednesday. He also added that this issue has become a "major irritant" in the bilateral ties between the two countries.

Sharif said the issue of US drone strikes has deeply disturbed and agitated people of Pakistan. "This issue has become a major irritant in our bilateral relations. I would therefore stress the need for an end to the drone attacks," he said.

"US drone strikes are not only a continued violation of our territorial integrity, but also detrimental to our resolve and efforts at eliminating terrorism from our country" - Nawaz Sharif
Addressing the think-tank experts and policy-makers in the US Institute of Pakistan (USIP), Sharif told the audience: "In my first statement to the parliament, I had reiterated our strong commitment to ensuring an end to the drone attacks."
"More recently, our political parties in a national conference had declared that the use of drones is not only a continued violation of our territorial integrity, but also detrimental to our resolve and efforts at eliminating terrorism from our country."
Moments before Sharif urged the Obama administration to end drone strikes, Amnesty International called to do more to investigate the number of civilians killed and wounded by CIA drone strikes targeting al-Qaida leaders in Pakistan. It alleged in a report that drone strikes are not only in violation of human rights but also may be war crimes.
"Drones may have given the US unrivalled access to one of the most remote and lawless parts of the world, but immediate security concerns, real or perceived, must not and cannot be addressed by trampling on the rights of people in Pakistan's tribal areas," Mustafa Qadri Pakistani researcher with the Human Rights Watch said.
Speaking about the relations with India, Mr. Sharif said, that he took a major step towards improving relations with the country by inviting the then Indian prime minister to Lahore.
"We share a common history, as well as a common destiny. Our past and our future are inter-twined. The people of Pakistan want to resolve all outstanding issues with India, through dialogue and negotiations," he said.
Mr. Sharif said there were areas where India and Pakistan could make quick progress and could also normalize trade relations. He said his meeting with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last month in New York reflected his desire for a quick improvement in ties.
"I am confident that we can overcome challenges and find solutions to all issues, as long as we stay engaged. In any case, we do not want isolated incidents to interrupt our dialogue."
Speaking about Afghanistan, Mr Sharif said that a peaceful, stable and united Afghanistan was in Pakistan’s vital interests.
"Our efforts are, therefore, focused on helping the stabilization of Afghanistan, which is going through a vitally important phase, with security and political transition underway," he said. "Pakistan wishes these landmark transitions to be completed peacefully and smoothly."
Pakistan also wished the international community to remain engaged in supporting Afghanistan’s reconstruction and economic development.
Mr Sharif said that during Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s recent visit to Islamabad, he assured him that Pakistan "wishes neither to interfere in Afghanistan’s internal affairs, nor do we have any favourites."
The prime minister reminded the audience that besides hosting millions of Afghan refugees for decades, Pakistan was also extending assistance worth more than $450 million for Afghanistan’s reconstruction and capacity-building, with special focus on infrastructure, health and education sectors.

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