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Pakistanis Demonstrate Against US 'Meddling,' 48 Pakistanis Killed by US Drone Attacks

July 16, 2011
Pakistanis protest US 'meddling'
Press TV, Sat Jul 16, 2011 6:4AM
Thousands of Pakistanis have staged a protest sit-in to condemn what they call increasing US interference in the affairs of the Muslim world.

Supporters of Pakistan's Jamaat-e-Islami religious party held a sit-in in Pakistan's Gujranwala city, northwest of Punjab's provincial capital of Lahore, on Friday to demand that the government review its relations with Washington, a Press TV correspondent reported.

“I am here in this sit-in to reflect our feelings and to press upon the government to solve the basic problems of the people,” said Syed Wasim Akhter, Jamaat-e-Islami leader.

“Before 9/11 and before the presence of American forces in the region, this area was quite peaceful. There were no blasts, no bombers. As Americans came into this region, the whole region turned into such a mess,” he added.

The demonstrators also protested against the non-UN-sanctioned US drone attacks in the Asian country, and strongly criticized the Pakistani government for following what they called American policies.

US drone strikes were first launched on Pakistan under former US President George W. Bush, and have been accelerated under incumbent President Barack Obama.

The United States has so far conducted 42 drone attacks in the tribal areas of Pakistan in 2011. A record 124 drone attacks were carried out in Pakistan's tribal areas in 2010, more than double the number of predator strikes conducted in 2009. The assaults killed 1,184 people in 2010, compared to 2009's death toll of 760.

Most of the attacks took place in the North Waziristan tribal area -- a hotbed of Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan and al-Qaeda-linked militants.

The use of drones has been sharply criticized both by Pakistani officials as well as international investigators including the UN's Special Rapporteur Philip Alston, who said in a report in late October 2010 that the attacks undermine the rules designed to protect the right of life.

Alston also expressed his fears that the drone killings by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) would develop a "play station" mentality.

Though Washington has at times claimed it has an agreement with Islamabad about such attacks, Pakistani authorities insist there has never been such a deal and that they view the airstrikes as repeated violations of the country's sovereignty.

The missile strikes have proven “counterproductive” as large numbers of outraged residents of the border areas are beginning to support the militants, according to Pakistani officials.

"We believe that they are counter-productive and also a violation of our sovereignty," Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit said in early October 2010.

"We hope that the US will revisit its policy," the spokesperson added.


NATO jets violate Pakistani airspace

Press TV, Fri Jul 15, 2011 12:59PM

NATO forces fighter jets entered Pakistan's airspace for several times over the past few months. Several NATO fighter jets have violated Pakistani airspace, making low flights into the country's troubled tribal northwestern regions.

Local sources say the aircraft crossed over into Pakistan's Kurram Agency through the Afghan border and flew up to five-kilometers across the border.

They went over Pakistani territory for a few minutes before returning to Afghanistan.

NATO helicopters entered the same region last year, firing several rockets that killed three Pakistani soldiers.

The incident forced Islamabad to close-off the NATO supply route that traverses Pakistan, suspending the delivery of goods to foreign troops in Afghanistan.

Tensions between the two countries increased following a secret US raid on Pakistan in May that allegedly killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Some White House officials suggest that Islamabad was aware of bin Laden's location.

Anti-US sentiments have grown among the Pakistani government and public since the raid.

A surge in unauthorized US drone attacks in Pakistan and NATO operations along the border has sparked criticism from Pakistani officials.

Pakistan also strongly condemned the violation of its airspace by US-led forces stationed in Afghanistan.

Washington claims the airstrikes target militants but most of the attacks result in civilian casualties.

The US invaded Afghanistan with the official objective of curbing militancy and bringing peace and stability to the region, however, after nine years the region remains unstable and militancy has expanded towards Pakistan.


U.S. drone strikes kill 48 suspected militants in Pakistan

By Haji Mujtaba | Reuters – Tue, Jul 12, 2011

MIRANSHAH, Pakistan (Reuters) -

At least 48 suspected militants were killed by missiles launched by U.S. drone aircraft in Pakistan's northwest, local intelligence officials said on Tuesday, one of the largest death tolls to date in the controversial air bombing campaign.

Coming a day after Washington announced an $800 million delay in military assistance amid worsening U.S.-Pakistan ties, the attacks could exacerbate tension between the two uneasy allies in the war against militants.

The attacks started on Monday night, when remotely piloted drones fired nine missiles into a militant compound and at a vehicle in North Waziristan, killing 25 suspected insurgents, local intelligence officials said.

Another strike hours later in South Waziristan killed five suspected militants.

Then on Tuesday morning, a drone fired two missiles at another compound in North Waziristan.

"The missiles were fired as militants sitting in a vehicle were entering into a house used by them as a hideout," an intelligence official said, adding that 15 militants were killed in the strike. "The house is on fire."

Three militants were killed in another strike in the same region.

There was no independent confirmation of the death tolls, and militants often dispute official death figures.

It was the second-largest death toll in a day in the unacknowledged U.S. drone campaign against militants in Pakistan's northwest. In June 2009, about 70 suspected militants were killed in a drone attack in South Waziristan.

Most of the strikes have been concentrated in South and North Waziristan, mountainous tribal regions on the Afghan border that shelter militant groups friendly with Pakistan but who are attacking U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

"Of course the number of casualties is very high and it will add to the already strained relationship," a senior Pakistani security official told Reuters.


Washington has been pushing Pakistan to mount an offensive against these militant sanctuaries for years, but Pakistan has resisted, saying it must consolidate its gains against Taliban militants elsewhere first. The United States has stepped up drone attacks in response to Pakistan's perceived recalcitrance.

Drone strikes have become one of the most contentious issues in the U.S.-Pakistan relationship. While Pakistan has always publicly opposed the strikes, privately it allowed them and cooperated with the United States determining targets.

But since the May 2 commando raid that killed Osama bin Laden, which Pakistan considers a grievous breach of sovereignty, the powerful head of the army, General Ashfaq Kayani, has called for a halt.

The army said in a statement it would "fight the menace of terrorism in our own national interest using our own resources."

Such comments in the past have been seen as a signal that Pakistan would not bow to U.S. pressure on military offensives, but the statement did not mention the drone attacks.

Joint intelligence operations between Pakistan and the United States were suspended in late January, after a CIA contractor killed two Pakistanis in Lahore.

Pakistan's Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence, the powerful spy agency, has said Washington has its own targeting information and no longer relies on Pakistani intelligence.

"There is intelligence sharing between the two sides," the security official said. "But at times they do carry out attacks on their on intelligence. I can't say for sure whether these recent attacks had our input or not."

More than 135 militants have been killed since the beginning of June in drone attacks, according to Reuters figures and based on statements from local intelligence officials.

Separately, two women were killed and nine people, including six children, were wounded when mortar rounds fired from Afghanistan hit a village in Bajaur tribal region on the Afghan border, military officials said on Tuesday.

The United States this week said it was holding back $800 million in military aid to Pakistan in a show of displeasure over Pakistan's cutback of U.S. military trainers, limits on visa for U.S. personnel and other bilateral irritants.

"As far as the suspension of aid is concerned, it is one way of putting pressure on us," the security official said. "I am not surprised that they have suspended it, and I won't be surprised if they resume it soon too."

(Additional reporting by Zeeshan Haider and Faisal Aziz; Writing by Zeeshan Haider; Editing by Chris Allbritton and Yoko Nishikawa)

Pakistan could "pull troops Afghan from border" if U.S. cuts aid

By Zeeshan Haider | Reuters – Tue, Jul 12, 2011

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) -

Pakistan could pull back troops fighting Islamist militants near the Afghan border if the United States cuts off aid, the defence minister said on Tuesday in an interview with Pakistani media.

The United States on Monday said it would hold back $800 million (505 million pounds) -- a third of nearly $2 billion in security aid to Pakistan -- in a show of displeasure over Pakistan's removal of U.S. military trainers, limits on visas for U.S. personnel and other bilateral irritants.

"If at all things become difficult, we will just get all our forces back," Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar said in an interview with the Express 24/7 television to be aired later on Tuesday.

The television aired excerpts of the interview on Tuesday.

"If Americans refuse to give us money, then okay," he said. "I think the next step is that the government or the armed forces will be moving from the border areas. We cannot afford to keep military out in the mountains for such a long period."

In Pakistan, the defence minister is relatively powerless. Real defence and military policy is made by the powerful Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Kayani, and the head of the Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence, Lieutenant-General Ahmed Shuja Pasha.

On Monday, the military said it could do without U.S. assistance by depending on its own resources or turning to "all-weather friend" China.

Mukhtar later told Reuters Pakistan wanted the money spent on the maintenance of the army in the tribal areas. "This is what we are demanding," he said. "It is our own money."

The United States provides hundreds of million of dollars a year to reimburse Pakistan for deploying more than 100,000 troops along the Afghan border to combat militant groups.

Other funding covers training and military hardware. The White House announcement puts $300 million in reimbursement and another $500 million in aid in question.

Pakistan is an important ally of the United States but relations between the two uneasy allies have been on the downward spiral since last year when a CIA contractor killed two Pakistanis in January and then U.S. Navy SEALS killed Osama bin Laden in a secret raid in the Pakistani town of Abbottabad in May without informing Islamabad beforehand.

Islamabad sees the May 2 raid as a breach of its sovereignty and has drastically cut back on the numbers of U.S. troops allowed in the country and has set clear limits on intelligence sharing with the United States.

In Washington, Pentagon spokesman Colonel David Lapan on Monday said the $800 million in U.S. aid put on hold could be resumed if Pakistan increased the number of visas for U.S. personnel and reinstated the training missions.

(Editing by Chris Allbritton and Nick Macfie)

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