Pakistan condemns drones’ return

* FO confirms Pakistan, Russia in contact over defence deals

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Thursday condemned the two drone strikes that targeted over a dozen foreign terror suspects in the North Waziristan Agency (NWA), terming the development as detrimental to peace and stability in the lawless tribal region.
“The Government of Pakistan condemns the two incidents of US drone strikes that took place near Miranshah in North Waziristan on 11 and 12 June. These strikes are a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Foreign Office said in a statement Thursday. “Additionally, these strikes have a negative impact on the Government’s efforts to bring peace and stability in Pakistan and the region.”
Moreover, the FO confirmed Russian envoy’s statement that defence agreements were under discussion between Pakistan and Russia, without clearly referring to the expected agreement on MI-35 military choppers. At least 16 militant suspects, mostly Uzbek and Tajik foreigners, were reported dead in the two surgical strikes in Dargah Mandi and Danadedarpa Khel areas of the NWA, respectively on Wednesday and predawn hours of Thursday.
Earlier, addressing a weekly press briefing on Thursday, FO Spokesperson Tasnim Aslam Khan said that foreigners were present in Pakistan’s tribal belt (north west) for the last three decades. “You know the background of the presence of foreigners in Pakistani tribal areas. It goes back to 30 years and they still move to and fro,” she replied a question on the reports that attackers in Karachi airport attack were from Tajik and Uzbek descent. “Obviously, terrorism is posing threat to all the countries. This is a menace which harms our people and our interests. This is a subject that is discussed when leaders meet,” Aslam said.
On the reports that Pakistan is negotiating with Russian authorities to purchase MI-35 helicopters, the spokesperson said, “Russian Ambassador interacted with the media recently and clarified many things. There were media reports that the Russian Federation has lifted the embargo on sale of arms to Pakistan but he clarified that there was never any embargo. There are some procurements, under discussions, in the context of our fight against terrorism.”
On Tuesday, Russian Envoy to Pakistan Alexey Dedov told a press conference that Pakistan and Russia were willing to strike a deal allowing Islamabad to purchase Moscow’s sophisticated MI-35 military choppers. In Thursday’s briefing, Tasnim Aslam said Islamabad was in contact with Washington to hold discussions on the US Congress decision to link American aid for Pakistan to military operations by Pakistani authorities in the tribal areas.
On the second phase of Afghan presidential elections starting Saturday, Aslam said that Pakistan reiterated full support to the neighbouring state for a “free and peaceful electoral process.” “On the eve of the first round on 5 April 2014, Pakistan had taken special steps to beef up security along the border,” she said.  Pakistani authorities, the FO diplomat said, are taking additional measures for the second round of elections. The measures include enhanced vigilance and security along the border, enhanced patrolling in close border/border crossing areas, enhanced checking by immigration staff, enhanced communication through existing coordination and cooperation mechanism, and availability of hotline contact with Afghan counterparts, she said.
Meanwhile, on May 14 this year, a drone strike targeted at least 10 militant suspects from Lashkar-e-Islam near Pak-Afghan border but Pakistan officially denied that the attack took place in its territory. “It landed across the border,” Defence Minister Khawaja Asif exclusively told Daily Times on May 17. The available data on drone strikes in tribal areas indicates that the last drone strike in Pakistani territory was reported on December 26 last year in North Waziristan Agency’s Qutabkhel area in Miranshah subdivision, killing at least four suspected TTP men. Up to 25 drone attacks took place last year, compared to 48 in 2012, 59 in 2011 and a record number of 90 drone attacks that took place in 2010. Over 2,600 people, mostly militants, are said to have been killed in around 300 drone attacks since 2004.

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