Pakistani PM Says on Eve of Obama Visit Drone Strikes Must Stop
The U.S. should halt drone strikes in Pakistan, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said today, one day before he meets with President Obama.
Drone strikes have "deeply disturbed and agitated our people," Sharif said at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C. "This issue has become a major irritant in our bilateral relationship as well. I would therefore stress the need for an end to the drone attacks."
Sharif arrived in Washington on Sunday, meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry that night. Sharif will meet with Obama Wednesday.
Two major international organizations condemned U.S. drone strikes today in separate reports, one of them specifically focused on Pakistan. Amnesty International, in a 76-page report entitled, "Will I Be Next?: US Drone Strikes in Pakistan," deemed U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan to be unlawful. In a 102-page report entitled, "'Between a Drone and Al-Qaeda': The Civilian Cost of US Targeted Killings in Yemen," Human Rights Watch similarly concluded U.S. drone strikes in Yemen are illegal.
The U.S. is resuming aid to Pakistan, the State Department announced this week, releasing $1.6 billion in already-appropriated funds that had been blocked as U.S./Pakistan relations deteriorated after the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
Sharif pledged Pakistan's commitment to fighting extremism on its own soil, disputing the notion that Pakistan is a source of terrorism.
"I am, however, aware that the greatest challenge to Pakistan comes from terrorism and extremism, but Pakistan is … neither a source of, nor the epicenter of, terrorism as is sometimes alleged," Sharif said.
Sharif said extremist violence cannot be ended "by unleashing senseless force against our citizens without first making every effort to bring the misguided and confused elements of society back to the mainstream."