World | Pakistan

Obama help sought over US air strikes

Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani is optimistic that after a dialogue with US President-elect Barack Obama's administration, the drone strikes in the country's tribal region will come to an end.

  • By Fasihur Rehman Khan, Correspondent
  • Published: 23:29 November 17, 2008
  • Gulf News

Islamabad: Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani is optimistic that after a dialogue with US President-elect Barack Obama's administration, the drone strikes in the country's tribal region will come to an end.

"The air strikes by US spy plans will halt with the starting of dialogues as soon as Barack Obama takes charge of his office," Gillani told the media in Karachi.

Pakistani Parliament, President, Prime Minister, Opposition leaders, and Armed Forces chiefs have time and again denounced the attacks and condemned violation of its territory terming it "a big hazard" in building a consensus in Pakistani society to join hands in government's war against militants.

Pakistan Army Chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani will take up the issue of unending drone strikes by US forces in tribal region of the country in his three-day interaction with Nato Defence Chiefs.

"During the meeting the Army Chief will call for a comprehensive approach towards complexities of security, including implications of drone strikes in Fata (Federally Administered Tribal Area) of the country," said a statement from the Armed Forces spokesman.

Kayani's visit to Brussels will commence from November 18 on a special invitation from the Chairman Nato Military Committee Admiral Giampaolo Di Paolo.

The Committee is the highest military forum and meets regularly to discuss issues concerning Nato. It provides advise on military matters to Nato's civilian decision making bodies, North Atlantic Council, Defence Planning Committee and Nuclear Planning Group.

Pakistan's tribal region along the porous Pakistan-Afghanistan border has been the target of US drone strikes for the last few years after the country joined ranks with United States in its fight against terror in the wake of 9/11 which saw the demise of once pro-Pakistan Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

Tribal areas

As a result, Taliban and Al Qaida melted into the rugged terrain in Afghanistan and in some Fata areas of Pakistan.

US forces have lately intensified attacks on these tribal areas terming them safe heavens for Al Qaida regrouping and Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan. On Friday, US drones killed at least 12 people in the stronghold of militant Baitullah Mehsud in Waziristan.

This latest attack came only a day after the top Nato commander in Afghanistan briefed some Pakistani parliamentarians in the US embassy in Pakistan about the complexity of operations in Afghanistan in an effort to cool down tempers over the unending drone strikes in the tribal region.

But most of the parliamentarians from the ruling PPP-led alliance, main opposition party, Pakistan Muslim League of Nawaz Sharif, and religious parties stayed away from the briefing in protest.

The Prime Minister said that terrorists and extremists have no religion, adding that the government of will punish those who tried to tarnish the image of country and religion in the name of Islam.

"The ruling democratic government enjoys support of 160 million people and it is the responsibility of state to ensure protection to the lives and prosperities of masses," he said.

He further stated that the formation of National Lashkar and cooperation of local tribes with security forces against the militants is a clear evidence of government's successful policy.

Four die in bomb attack

A suicide car bomber attacked an army checkpoint in northwestern Pakistan yesterday, killing four security personnel, while violence elsewhere in the region left at least five suspected militants dead, authorities said.

Pakistan is engaged in a pair of major offensives against militants who use pockets of its northwest to stage attacks on American and Nato forces across the border in Afghanistan. Insurgents have retaliated for the offensives by staging a wave of attacks throughout Pakistan.

The suicide attack yesterday was in Gashkor, a village in the Swat Valley. The attack killed four security personnel and wounded another three, a Pakistan army statement said. Swat, a former tourist destination, is the site of one of the two offensives.

The other offensive is focused on Bajur, a tribal region bordering Afghanistan that is the rumoured hiding place of Al Qaida leader Osama Bin Laden.

Security forces used artillery fire to kill at least five suspected insurgents in parts of Bajur on Monday, said Jamil Khan, a government representative in the area.

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