Pakistan won’t allow drones in Balochistan


ISLAMABAD: Pakistan said on Saturday it would not allow the US to conduct drone attacks against suspected Al Qaeda and Taliban militants in Balochistan.
“No request from the US has been received for drone attacks in Balochistan, but if such a request is made, we will never allow them (Americans) to carry out these strikes,” Foreign Office Spokesman Abdul Basit told Pakistan Today on Saturday.
A report published in the Washington Post on Friday said that the “US is seeking to expand drone operations in Pakistan and a request has been made for allowing drone strikes in Balochistan”.
“US policy makers have repeatedly said militants of Al Qaeda and Taliban-linked group known as the Haqqani network are using the rugged mountains of Balochistan as their hideouts because of its close proximity with Afghanistan and Iran,” according to the Post report.
Basit said, “Pakistan already has reservations on the drone attacks in the Tribal Areas and we want the Americans to revisit their drone attacks’ policy and stop the strikes.”
He also rejected as baseless another Washington Post claim that Pakistani authorities had agreed to allow the American spy agency, CIA, to increase its presence in Quetta.
“This assertion is baseless. Pakistani agencies do cooperate with the foreign intelligence organisations, but it’s only our own security forces that operate on this side of the Afghan border,” Basit said.
Another Pakistani official said he was not aware of the exact region, but the US had been asking for the expansion of drone operations for a while now.
“I have no knowledge about the areas that the Americans want to bring under the drone attacks. It could be the expansion of drone strikes in the Tribal Areas or even Balochistan, where the US believes the top Taliban leadership has taken refuge, but I know that they have made a request for expanding drone attacks,” he said, wishing not to be named.
He said the country was against the expansion of drone operations, as that would lead to more civilian killings and add to the prevailing anti-American sentiments among the masses. Washington believes the drone strikes are highly effective in the war against Al Qaeda and its allies.
Also, Basit denied ”receiving any new set of proposals from India for the resumption of bilateral dialogue”, the Online news agency reported. The Foreign Office spokesman said he was “unaware of the new proposals given by India”. Basit said “Pakistan is eager to resume the process of dialogue but is not willing to do it just for photo-sessions”.
“India has some issues with the bilateral dialogue and is not willing to talk about Kashmir, Siachen and other core issues which is against our stated position,” he observed.