Pakistan officials accuse US of sabotaging Taliban peace talks

Government summons US ambassador over drone strike that killed head of Pakistani Taliban

Pakistani protesters from United Citizen Action shout anti-U.S. slogans during a demonstration against the killing of Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud on Friday.
S.S MIRZA/AFP/Getty Images

Pakistan summoned the U.S. ambassador on Saturday to protest a drone strike that killed Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud the day before. Islamabad is accusing the United States of using such actions in attempt to sabotage peace talks with local Taliban fighters.

The country's Foreign Office issued a statement saying the strike was "counter-productive to Pakistan's efforts to bring peace and stability to Pakistan and the region."

The interior minister echoed that sentiment and called the drone strike a "murder of peace."

"The government of Pakistan does not see this strike as a strike on an individual, but on the peace process," Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar told Pakistan's The Express Tribune newspaper.

Nisar accused the U.S. of double-crossing Pakistan after the U.S. ambassador had allegedly assured him that Washington would support a dialogue that Islamabad had initiated with Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TPP), the Taliban’s Pakistan wing.

The U.S. ambassador also assured Islamabad that there would be no attacks on Pakistani territory before Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited Washington for talks last month, reported Al Jazeera's Kamal Hyder.

"This is definitely causing considerable anger," added Al Jazeera's correspondent in Islamabad.

Shah Farman, a spokesman for the government of the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, said provincial legislators would punish the U.S. by passing a resolution on Monday to cut NATO supply lines into landlocked Afghanistan.

The supply lines have been crucial since the latest Afghan war began in 2001, and remain vital as the U.S. and other Western forces prepare to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of next year.

Mehsud's death on Friday came at a critical moment in Pakistan's efforts to end the group's bloody six-year insurgency that has left thousands of soldiers, police and civilians dead.

Sharif had been expected to send a delegation to open contacts with the group, after winning backing for dialogue from political parties last month.

The government said on Saturday that it was determined to continue pursuing talks with the TPP.

While the U.S. claims that drones are an important defensive tool, the use of the unmanned aircraft is deeply unpopular in many parts of the world, including Pakistan, where the government has taken a firm public line against their use.

At the U.N. General Assembly last month, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif urged the U.S. to stop drone attacks, saying the program was “a continued violation of our territorial integrity.”

Choosing a new leader

Earlier on Saturday, TPP fighters secretly buried Mehsud, and quickly moved to replace him while vowing a wave of suicide bombs in revenge.

He was buried under cover of darkness in the early hours by a few companions amid fears that his funeral might be attacked by U.S. drones, Taliban and Pakistani security sources said.

"Every drop of Hakimullah's blood will turn into a suicide bomber," said Azam Tariq, a Pakistani Taliban spokesman.

"America and their friends shouldn't be happy because we will take revenge for our martyr's blood."

Mehsud took over as leader of the Al-Qaeda-linked Pakistani Taliban in 2009. The group's two previous leaders were killed in attacks by U.S. missile-firing drones.

Taliban commanders voted to replace him with the movement's No. 2 leader, Khan Said, who is also known as Sajna.

Said is believed to have masterminded an attack on a jail in northwest Pakistan that freed nearly 400 prisoners in 2012. He is also thought to have been behind a large attack on a Pakistani naval base.

But some commanders were unhappy with the choice and wanted more talks, several group members said, indicating divisions within the Pakistani Taliban, an umbrella group of factions allied with the Afghan Taliban and battling the Pakistani state in the hope of imposing stricter Islam-based rule.

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