One of Islamabad’s most senior diplomats says that CIA drone strikes in Pakistan are undermining their democracy and pushing people towards extremist groups. Wajid Shamsul Hasan, the high commissioner to London and one of Pakistan’s top ambassadors, said when it comes to democracy the US “talks in miles, but moves in inches”.
“What has been the whole outcome of these drone attacks is that you have directly or indirectly contributed to destabilizing or undermining the democratic government. Because people really make fun of the democratic government – when you pass a resolution against drone attacks in the parliament and nothing happens. The Americans don’t listen to you, and they continue to violate your territory,” Hasan said in an interview with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.
“We cannot take on the only superpower, which is all-powerful in the world at the moment. You can’t take them on. We are a small country, we are ill-equipped.” he added.
Last week, Sherry Rehman, Islamabad’s ambassador to the US, said: “We will seek an end to drone strikes and there will be no compromise on that.” The heads of Pakistan’s army and ISI spy service are also lobbying Washington to allow Pakistani forces to carry out any actual strikes against terrorists, based on US intelligence.
Hasan says that anti-US sentiment is reaching dangerously high levels. “Even those who were supporting us in the border areas have now become our enemies. They say that we are partners in these crimes against the people. By and large you will hardly find anybody who will say a word in support of the United States, because of these drone attacks.”
He insists that his country is committed to fighting al-Qaida and extremism. “We’re not opposed to eliminating these al-Qaida chaps. We were not opposed to eliminating Osama bin Laden, because he was declared an international terrorist. If I were there I would have killed him myself.”
The issue, he insists, is the continued violation of Pakistan’s national sovereignty by US drones. “This is a violation of the UN charter, it is a clear violation of our territorial sovereignty and national integrity. These drone violations have been taking place since 2004. And the attacks have killed 2,500 to 3,000 people,” he said.
He also says the US’s commitment in Pakistan and Afghanistan to democracy is weak and there are those in the US government that would still prefer to be dealing with a dictator.
‘Ten years down the road you have not even allowed democratic parties to be active, you are not allowing political parties to exist in Afghanistan. How can you have democracy if you don’t have political parties?”
Pakistan can still play a key role in negotiating peace with the Taliban, but Hasan says that the US has shown little interest in offers of aid.
‘When we have been telling them that you must have a dialogue with the Taliban, good or bad, they never listen to us. Now they have started back-door diplomacy and all these backtracks through the Saudis and others. But again they’re forgetting one thing. Pakistan has been one of the major players in the region, ever since the Soviets occupied Afghanistan. We have had the best relationship with those Afghans, the Taliban or whatever in the past. Couldn’t we be a better option for them to deal with those people? No — they never bothered.’
With the US and Nato intending to withdraw from Afghanistan by 2014, Hasan insists that Pakistan will continue the fight against al-Qaida – but that it cannot accept US drone strikes.
“Bush’s state department said a fortnight before 9/11 that they were opposed to targeted killing [in Israel] because they don’t end the violence. And drone strikes won’t end the violence, they won’t end extremism, they won’t end the Taliban and won’t end al-Qaida.”
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