Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & Augustine Anthony & Faseeh Mangi / Bloomberg News & The News – 2013-11-22 00:57:48
Pakistan’s Imran Khan to Block NATO Supplies After Drone Strike
Jason Ditz / Anti-War.com
(November 21, 2013) — NATO is about to lose access to its primary supply line into occupied Afghanistan, the Khyber Pass, as Imran Khan, the leader of the Pakistani Tehreek-e Insaf (PTI), the political party which runs the Khyber Pakhtunkhah Province (KP) through which the supplies travel, has vowed to implement a blockade in retaliation for US drone strikes.
Khan had initially threatened such a blockade after the November 1 US drone strike that killed Hakimullah Mehsud, just 24 hours before Hakimullah was set to open peace talks with the Pakistani government, but delayed his plans when no US strikes followed.
Last night, the day of Khan’s initial deadline for ending all drone attack, the US drones attacked a religious school in the KP city of Hangu, destroying it and killed eight people.
Khan said that the provincial cabinet has been called in for an emergency meeting after the strike, and is expected to implement the blockade over the weekend. He also condemned the strikes for putting civilians’ lives in danger. The opposition Awami Muslim League has thrown its support behind the blockade as well.
The ruling party on a national level, the Pakistani Muslim League-N (PML-N) has not yet commented on the planned blockade, and Khan has accused their leader, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, of secretly permitting the US strikes even as he publicly condemns them. PML-N officials denied the allegation, but gave no indication they’d do anything about the latest attack.
Imran Khan Vows to Block NATO Pakistan Supply Route Over Drones
Augustine Anthony & Faseeh Mangi / Bloomberg News
(November 21, 2013) — Former Pakistani cricketer Imran Khan vowed to permanently block a supply route to US forces in Afghanistan starting tomorrow as he seeks an end to drone strikes in the country’s northwest, where his party holds power.
A US drone attack yesterday killed six people at an Islamic seminary in the Tal area of Hangu district in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province near Afghanistan, Deputy Commissioner Ahmed Jan said by telephone. All those killed were Afghans, he said.
US drones have usually targeted the lawless tribal belt closer to the Afghan border, making the latest attack unusual. The strike inflamed Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, which announced the plan to shut a key supply route for foreign troops in Afghanistan earlier this month after a drone strike killed the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, disrupting peace talks.
“We will announce at the protest on Saturday that we will permanently block the supply route until they stop drone attacks,” Khan said yesterday in a televised press conference. “If it’s in our hands, we will block it today. Our powers are that we can tell them that NATO supplies can’t pass through our province.”
Pakistan’s government “strongly condemns” yesterday’s drone strike as a violation of the nation’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, the foreign ministry said in an e-mailed statement from Islamabad. “There is an across the board consensus in Pakistan that these drone strikes must end.”
Khan’s protest sets up a clash with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s six-month-old government, according to Hasan Askari Rizvi, a Lahore-based independent security analyst who formerly taught at Columbia University in New York.
“This is going to be the first time that any provincial government is going to openly challenge the policy of the central government,” he said. “It will create more chaos in domestic politics and isolate Pakistan at the international level.”
The latest attack has made tomorrow’s protest “even more imperative,” said Shireen Mazari, central information secretary of Khan’s PTI, which emerged as the third-largest political party in this year’s general elections, which won by Sharif’s party. Pakistan’s constitution gives the central government authority over provincial administrations in defense and foreign policy.
“The attack in Hangu means that the Americans have declared war against all of Pakistan,” Mazari said. “We want to ask whether our government and military were sleeping while Pakistan was attacked or are they complicit in these attacks?”
Pakistan agreed to open supply routes for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization last year after closing them in 2011 following a US military strike that killed 24 Pakistani troops. The accord permits US-led forces to ship non-lethal supplies to Afghanistan until 2015 through two routes: One in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and the other in the southwestern province of Baluchistan.
Any prolonged disruption of the key route in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa could inhibit the US’s ability to remove troops, weapons and equipment as part of the plan to withdraw most of its forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
“This protest will be largely symbolic and likely not last more than one day,” the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force joint command said in an e-mailed message yesterday. “It should have minimal to no impact on ISAF’s supply mission.”
The latest drone strike risks further inflaming anti-US public sentiment in Pakistan, where such attacks are seen as a violation of the country’s sovereignty and have strained ties between the government and the Obama administration.
After a Nov. 1 drone attack that killed Hakimullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, the Pakistan government said it would review “every aspect” of cooperation with the Obama administration.
While the US trumpeted the death of Mehsud, indicted in the US three years ago for his alleged role in a suicide bombing that killed seven CIA employees in Afghanistan in 2009, Pakistan said it scuttled efforts to bring militants to the negotiating table to end more than a decade of violence.
The US conveyed to Pakistan after Mehsud’s death that there would be no drone attacks on Taliban militants while they were talking to the Pakistan government, Sartaj Aziz, Sharif’s adviser on security and foreign affairs, was quoted as telling a parliamentary panel on Nov. 20, the News reported yesterday.
To contact the reporters on this story: Augustine Anthony in Islamabad at firstname.lastname@example.org; Faseeh Mangi in Karachi at email@example.com
US Denies Pakistan’s Claim that Seminary Was Target
PESHAWAR (November 22, 2013) — American and Pakistani officials sharply disagreed Thursday about whether an Islamic school was struck by a US drone, in an unusual attack that inflamed tensions over the CIA drone campaign, said a report published in Washington Post.
According to Pakistani officials, three missiles were fired into a compound in Khyber, Pakhtunkhwa province about 5 a.m. local time Thursday, a rare strike outside the Pakistani tribal areas near the Afghan border that are usually targeted by US drones.
Pakistani officials say the drone hit a madrassa, or Islamic seminary, killing six people, including two teachers. The dead included Maulvi Ahmad Jan and Maulvi Hameedullah, who were top surrogates for Sirajuddin Haqqani, the second in command of the Haqqani militant group, which has ties to al-Qaeda.
A US official disputed that the strike was aimed at a madrassa. Instead, the official said, the target was a compound associated with the Haqqani network, which is accused of multiple attacks against American forces in Afghanistan.
The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, acknowledged that a madrassa was in the vicinity but said it was not damaged. US officials have seen no indication of civilian casualties, he said.
Umar Khan Bangash, a local politician who lives in the area, said the missile hit the 15-room seminary. He and other Pakistani officials said the madrassa is frequently used by refugees from Afghanistan and suspected militants affiliated with the Haqqani network.
Citing intelligence sources, the Reuters news agency reported that Sirajuddin Haqqani was spotted at the seminary as recently as two days before the attack.
Haqqani is wanted by the United States for a 2008 attack on a Kabul hotel that killed six people, including one American, according to the FBI. Pakistani officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the matter freely, said Haqqani was not at the compound during the attack.
The Haqqani network is considered one of the most ruthless militant groups in the region and operates training camps in Pakistan.
Sirajuddin Haqqani’s brother, Nasiruddin, who was also a leader of the group, was fatally shot two weeks ago under mysterious circumstances as he left a market on the outskirts of Islamabad, the Pakistani capital. The body of Nasiruddin Haqqani was removed from the scene before police arrived and was buried by relatives, Pakistani officials said. It is unclear who killed him.
Thursday’s drone attack could further complicate relations between the United States and some Pakistani leaders, as well as intensify debate within this country over an appropriate response to the strikes. Although the United States has carried out dozens of drone strikes in tribal areas in northwest Pakistan, provincial officials said Thursday’s attack was the first in other areas in more than five years.
Even before the strike, Imran Khan and other political leaders in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were planning to protest the US drone campaign by halting NATO convoys that cross the province to reach landlocked Afghanistan.
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