Pakistani bases not being used for drone attacks: FM
* Qureshi says Pakistan has conveyed concern over US strikes to Holbrooke
* Calls for support of masses in war on terror
MULTAN: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said on Sunday that Pakistani bases were not being used for US drone attacks in the Tribal Areas – as suggested by a US senator a few days ago.
Qureshi told journalists before flying to the federal capital that US drone attacks were affecting Pakistan’s sovereignty, and clarified that the drones were not being flown from bases inside Pakistan. He said Pakistan had always condemned the drone attacks over which no understanding or agreement existed.
Qureshi said Pakistan had taken up the issue during a recent visit by the US special envoy, Richard Holbrooke, and conveyed the administration’s concern over the attacks. The foreign minister said the drone attacks were causing collateral damage and proving to be counter-productive.
Concern: Qureshi said at the meetings between Pakistani officials and Hallbrook, the US official had said that the drone attack strategy would have to be reviewed if the disadvantages outweighed the advantages of the strikes.
About the unrest in Swat, he said Islamabad would never negotiate with those challenging the writ of the government in the valley. He said the majority of the residents in the valley were annoyed with the current situation and wanted the government’s help to live in peace. “The government will certainly help these people,” he said, adding that the government was engaging such people to isolate the terrorists.
Swat was once a top tourist destination, but the valley is now the scene of intense fighting between the Taliban and security forces trying to re-establish the writ of the government.
The minister said the NWFP government held talks with only those who supported peace. He said the administration wanted to employ a holistic approach that, in addition to utilising force, also involved negotiations with the affected people.
Support: The foreign minister said the battle against terrorists had been a lengthy one, but called on the masses to support the government’s strategy for the war on terror.
He said that the US had already decided to review its strategy in the war on terror, and a committee – headed by Bruce Reidel, an adviser to US President Barack Obama and co-chaired by special envoy Holbrooke – had been formed to look into the achievements and drawbacks of the policy pursued over the last eight years.
The foreign minister said that after consulting Pakistan, the International Security Assistance Force and NATO allies – a new strategy would be formed and announced during a NATO conference on April 2 and 3 in Strasburg, and “we hope the new strategy would match the holistic approach advocated by Pakistan”.
He said that Pakistan was suffering ‘human losses’ as well as economic losses in the war on terror, but the country was fighting terrorism for its own survival. app