Pakistan furious with US after killer drone strike

Government claims attack was attempt to derail peace talks

Pakistan said today it was looking to review its relationship with the US after furiously denouncing a drone  attack that killed the leader of the Pakistani Taliban.

The strike that killed Hakimullah Mehsud on Friday has been described by government officials as a “deliberate” attempt to derail proposed peace talks with the militant group, a move they say could spark a wave of revenge bombings.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s office issued a statement yesterday saying he would chair a meeting about  the consequences of the strike for Pakistan’s ties with Washington. It is unclear when this meeting will take place. Mehsud was a notably vicious leader of the Pakistani Taliban, a position to which he rose after his mentor, Baitullah Mehsud, was slain in an earlier drone strike in August 2009.

His death has dealt a severe blow to the Taliban, which has launched a wave of brutal attacks against Pakistani civilians as well as Pakistani and Nato soldiers on both sides of the border. The Pakistani Taliban, which has managed to sustain its campaign of violence despite numerous assassinations, is reportedly appointing a successor to Mehsud. It has also vowed to withdraw from any talks and unleash revenge bombings. The government’s reconsideration of ties with Washington comes on the heels of threats from the cricketer- turned-politician Imran Khan to choke off Nato’s supply route that runs through Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the north-western province run by his Movement for Justice party.

“Now it has been proven,” Mr Khan said. “Whenever Pakistan has tried to move towards negotiations, drone attacks have sabotaged the move.”

Mr Khan accused the US of calculatedly undermining talks with the Taliban as part of a clandestine attempt to keep Pakistan “constantly at war”. No negotiations have begun, but a day before the strike that killed Mehsud, the government had announced the process was poised to begin. The BBC said a Pakistani delegation had been due to fly to the tribal area of North Waziristan on Saturday to meet Mehsud.

The public fury at drone strikes, even ones that kill Pakistan’s enemies, is reflective of the heightened pitch of anti-American fury inside the country. Urged on by the opposition, Mr Sharif complained about drone strikes on a visit to Washington to meet President Obama last week. There is a widespread perception within Pakistan, supported partly by a recent Amnesty International report, that unmanned American aircraft kill far more civilians than the CIA concedes. Recent independent estimates suggest that between 400 and 900 civilians have been killed in US drone strikes since 2008. However, a recent disclosure by Pakistan’s Ministry of Defence claimed that 67 civilians had been killed in such attacks in recent years, far less than its previous estimates.

The CIA’s drone aircraft target militants skulking in Pakistan’s tribal areas along the Afghan border. The murky information about drones and their targets reflects the difficulty in establishing exactly what happens in an area too dangerous for independent observers to explore. But the anger against drone strikes is not merely about civilian casualties. Over recent years, politicians such as Mr Khan have roused fierce opposition to the CIA programme by appealing to Pakistanis’ sense of nationalism and accusing the US of violating the country’s sovereignty.

The debate is also complicated by allegations of Pakistani connivance in the attacks. The former governments of presidents Asif Ali Zardari and Gen Pervez Musharraf both quietly co-operated with the US while publicly denouncing the strikes. Mr Sharif’s government says it wants drones to halt and for negotiations with the Taliban to pave the way for an end to the terrorist bombings.

But critics warn that talks will legitimise the militants and could lead to a capitulation to their demands.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Sport
Kim Sears is reported to have directed abuse at Berdych
tennis
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
i100
Voices
A mother and her child
voices
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballI have never seen the point of lambasting the fourth official, writes Paul Scholes
Life and Style
Vote green: Benoit Berenger at The Duke of Cambridge in London's Islington
food + drinkBanishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turn over a new leaf
News
Joel Grey (left) poses next to a poster featuring his character in the film
peopleActor Joel Grey comes out at 82
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing & Sales Manager

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee