Drone or chopper strikes will not be allowed in Pak: Chief of Naval Staff

Published: Wednesday, November 24, 2010, 12:00 [IST]

Islamabad, Nov 24 (ANI): Drone or helicopter attacks inside Pakistan's territory will not be allowed, as that would be an attack on the country's sovereignty, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Noman Bashir has said, according to a TV channel.

Bashir made these comments while talking to journalists after addressing the annual ceremony of Bahria College in Islamabad, the Daily Times reported.

His remarks came in the wake of reports that the United States has renewed its pressure on Pakistan to expand the areas where CIA drones can operate inside the country.

According to US and Pakistani officials, although the United States' appeal has focused on the area surrounding the Pakistani city of Quetta, where the Afghan Taliban leadership is thought to be based, it also seeks to expand the boundaries for drone strikes in the tribal areas, which have been targeted in 101 attacks this year.

US officials confirmed the request for expanded drone flights, citing concern that Quetta functions not only as a sanctuary for Taliban leaders but also as a base for sending money, recruits and explosives to Taliban forces inside Afghanistan, according to a newspaper report.

"If they understand our side, they know the patience is running out," a senior NATO military official said.

Although the CIA's drone campaign in the country has accelerated dramatically in recent months, Pakistan places strict boundaries on where CIA drones can fly. The unmanned aircraft may patrol designated flight "boxes" over the country's tribal belt but not other provinces, including Balochistan, which encompasses Quetta.

While Pakistani officials stressed that Quetta is a densely populated city where an errant strike is more likely to kill innocent civilians, potentially provoking a backlash, US officials have long suspected that there are other reasons for Islamabad's aversion, including the concern that US drones might be used to conduct surveillance of Pakistani nuclear weapons facilities in Balochistan, according to the report.

The disagreement over the scope of the drone program underscores broader tensions between the United States and Pakistan, wary allies that are increasingly pointing fingers at one another over the rising levels of insurgent violence on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border, it added. (ANI)

 

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