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article imageOp-Ed: Pakistan President Asif Zardari demands end to drone strikes

By Ken Hanly     Sep 16, 2012 in Politics
Islamabad - After talks with special envoy to Pakistan Marc Grossman, President of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari, called for an end to drone strikes on militants in the tribal areas of Pakistan.
A presidential spokesperson told reporters that Zardari and Grossman: ".. discussed bilateral relations, the fight against militancy, the regional situation, drug trafficking and drone attacks...(Zardari) reiterated his call for an end to the drone attacks, terming them counterproductive in the fight against militancy and in the battle of winning hearts..We need to discuss alternatives on the question of drone attacks,"
Zardari also said that the trust deficit between the two countries needed to be overcome to establish a long-term durable relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan. It is not at all clear how this trust relationship can be easily restored. The U.S. believes that at the very least Pakistani intelligence retains close relationships with the Haqqani network a group that mounts raids into Afghanistan from Pakistan.
Drone attacks are very unpopular in Pakistan as is the United States. There have been many demonstrations against the strikes in Pakistan claiming that the attacks are a violation of Pakistani sovereignty and often kill civilians. Zardari's statements against the attacks probably mean little. There have already been three different resolutions passed through the Pakistani parliament demanding the attacks cease. Ceasing attacks was also a condition of re-opening NATO transit routes through Pakistan. The routes have opened but there was a drone attack almost immediately after the re-opening as if to emphasize that there was no deal with respect to stopping drone attacks.
Grossman also spoke about trade relations saying that they should be based upon market access. The U.S is working on a bilateral investment deal that would improve market access and encourage U.S. investment in Pakistan. Grossman had talks with other Pakistani officials as well including the Foreign Minister, Army Chief Ashfaq Kayani, the Foreign Secretary, and some parliamentarians.
Grossman noted that the U.S. government had nothing to do with the anti-Islam film that has resulted in often violent demonstrations in numerous countries including Pakistan. Anti-U.S. feelings are already extremely high in Pakistan with over 90 per cent of Pakistanis considering the U.S. an enemy. This is one reason why Zardari demands that drone strikes cease while probably agreeing to them in private. Pakistan no doubt often provides intelligence to the U.S. for targeting purposes. As far as trust is concerned, Pakistan can trust the U.S. not to stop drone attacks in the tribal areas.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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