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Drone attacks counter-productive to war on terror, says Pakistan

By Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad
March 26, 2009 21:28 IST
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With no let up in drone attacks by the United States-led coalition forces in its tribal belt, Pakistan on Thursday insisted that such strikes were counter-productive to the fight against terrorism and extremism.

"Pakistan has taken up the issue very forcefully with the US and conveyed the sentiments of the Pakistan government and people to the US leadership, especially that (the drone attacks) are counter-productive," Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit said.

His remarks came after a second drone attack in less than 24 hours in the north Waziristan tribal region killed five persons. Basit said since Pakistan has been cooperating sincerely as an ally in the war on terror, the US would understand its concerns and review its policy accordingly.

Basit said he was hopeful of a positive outcome regarding drone attacks when the US reviews its policy for the region. Basit dismissed reports that the drone attacks are being carried out with the tacit permission of Pakistan.

"How can a country allow its sovereignty and territorial integrity to be breached?" he asked.

The campaign against terror should be reviewed and there is a need for a comprehensive regional approach to resolve the issues involved. Instead of using force, there is a need to win the hearts and minds of the people, Basit said.

Responding to a question on the US State Department announcing a reward for information leading to the capture of Pakistani Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud, Basit said Islamabad is against terrorism in all its forms and supports steps that help bring terrorists to justice.

Replying to another question, he said reports about the involvement of any foreign country in securing Pakistan's nuclear assets are "conjectural and baseless".

Pakistan's armed forces are fully capable of taking care of its strategic assets and facilities and "we do not need foreign assistance in this regard," he said.

The nuclear assets are completely safe and secure under an indigenous, multi-layered and institutionalised security and command and control structure that has been operational since 1998, Basit said.

In line with its obligations as a nuclear weapons state, Pakistan formally instituted a command and control mechanism comprising the National Command Authority, Strategic Plans Division and Strategic Force Command in February 2000.

The SPD has an elaborate mechanism, including a counter-intelligence network, to safeguard nuclear facilities, he added.

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Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad
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