Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Pakistani PM to Meet Obama at White House

STATE DEPARTMENT — Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will visit the White House on Wednesday for talks with President Barack Obama. They are expected to focus on the issue of U.S. drone strikes against militants along the Afghan/Pakistan border.

U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan top the agenda of Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Last month, he told the United Nations that the fight against terrorism must comply with international law.

Click here to see Amnesty International\'s interactive map of U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan

\"The use of armed drones in the border areas of Pakistan is a continued violation of our territorial integrity. It results in casualties of innocent civilians and is detrimental to our resolve and efforts to eliminate extremism and terrorism from Pakistan. I urge the United States of America to cease these strikes,\" said Sharif.

The strikes have come to symbolize Pakistan\'s inability to control its own airspace, says American University professor Akbar Ahmed.

\"The drones have now become a very potent and toxic symbol of America\'s power in Pakistan and its willingness to violate international law, international sovereignty,\" said Ahmed.

On Tuesday, President Obama\'s Press Secretary Jay Carney defended the strikes.

\"The United States does not take lethal strikes when we or our partners have the ability to capture individual terrorists,\" said Carney.

Nevertheless, the Obama administration appears to be scaling back its use of drones. However, Ahmed said, only a stop to the attacks can improve Washington\'s ties with Islamabad.

\"In Pakistan today, the mood is so bad against the West, particularly the United States, that just the removal of the drones, some kind of gesture… That itself will bring down the temperature,\" said Ahmed.

Damage control

Washington appears to be trying to repair the damage. The Obama administration this month asked Congress for more than $1 billion dollars in aid to Pakistan.

Meeting with Sharif before his talks at the White House, Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States is eager for closer ties with Pakistan.

\"The relationship with Pakistan could not be more important. On its own, a democracy that is working hard to get its economy moving and deal with insurgency and also important to the regional stability too,\" said Kerry.

Pakistan\'s powerful military backs the Sharif government\'s opening of \"unconditional\" talks with Taliban fighters, but stands ready to use force.

\"The national leadership has chosen the path of dialogue to deal with this menace, and the Pakistan army supports this process. But the nation and the political leadership need to determine the parameters within which this dialogue should take place,\" said Army Chief General Asfaq Kayani.

With the Taliban claiming its attacks are in response to U.S. drone strikes, Akbar Ahmed says Prime Minister Sharif\'s economic goals could be on hold.

\"Nawaz Sharif\'s background is as an entrepreneur, a businessman, and he would like to see Pakistan become an economic powerhouse,\" said Ahmed.

Ahmed also points out that regardless of what reforms are made or steps are taken, it can\'t happen until law and order are restored.
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