ISLAMABAD — Just days after taking power, Pakistan’s new government lodged a protest with the U.S. and summoned a top American envoy Saturday to vent its anger over a U.S. drone strike that was said to have killed seven militants. The move bolstered expectations that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government will, at least publicly, take a much harder line against such strikes than its predecessor.
Friday night’s drone strike near the Afghan border came just two days after Sharif was sworn in as prime minister and the same day his Cabinet members took their oaths of office. Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-N handily won general elections last month and is expected to govern with a strong mandate because it doesn’t need to rely on coalition parties.
Sharif, who wants to pursue peace talks with militants threatening his country, has insisted the U.S. stop the drone strikes, saying they violate Pakistan’s sovereignty and are counterproductive because they stoke anti-American sentiment in this nation of 180 million. Many Pakistanis believe the drone strikes kill large numbers of innocent civilians.
The U.S. insists the CIA-run strikes primarily kill al-Qaida and other militants who threaten the West as well as efforts to stabilize Afghanistan. In a recent speech, President Barack Obama pledged more transparency and restrictions on the highly secretive program, but it appears that for the time being, Pakistan will remain an exception to such plans.
Sharif adviser Tariq Fatemi, acting on the premier’s instructions, summoned U.S. Embassy Charge D’Affaires Richard Hoagland to the Foreign Office on Saturday to complain about the latest drone strike, according to a Pakistani government statement. U.S. Ambassador Richard Olson was out of Pakistan at the time.
“The importance of bringing an immediate end to drone strikes was emphasized,” the Pakistani government statement said. “It was also stressed that these drone strikes have a negative impact on the mutual desire of both countries to forge a cordial and cooperative relationship and to ensure peace and stability in the region.”
A U.S. Embassy official confirmed the encounter but did not provide further details. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to publicly talk about diplomatic discussions.