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Pakistan politician calls for supply route block after US drone killing
Imran Khan threatens to block supplies to NATO troops in Afghanistan after Pakistani Taliban leader's death
November 4, 20132:08AM ET
Pakistan's prime minister Nawaz Sharif will chair a meeting of his top security advisors Monday evening to review relations with the U.S. following the Friday drone strike that killed Hakimullah Mehsud, the leader of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), also known as the Pakistani Taliban.
The meeting will take place amid threats from a prominent politician to block a key supply line into Afghanistan in response to the strike.
The drone attack came as the Pakistani government was taking the first steps towards initiating talks with the TTP, which is blamed for killing thousands of people during a six-year battle against the state.
Sharif, who came to power in May, has pledged to hold talks to try to end the TTP's bloody insurgency, which has fueled instability in the nation. On Saturday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar accused Washington of "scuttling" peace efforts, saying "every aspect" of Islamabad's ties with Washington would be reviewed by the cabinet security council.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai also added his voice to the criticism of the U.S., saying the killing of Mehsud came at "an unsuitable time," and that he hoped the peace process did not suffer as a result of the strike.
Opposition parties led by politician Imran Khan's Pakistani Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) party have demanded the government close Pakistan's roads to convoys supplying NATO forces in Afghanistan.
Khan, one of the most vocal critics of the strikes and whose party runs the government in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, has threatened to block supply lines unless the attacks stop.
'This was a bad guy'
But despite the heated rhetoric of the weekend, Sharif and his government must weigh the practicalities of their response carefully in light of improving relations with a vital financial partner.
The money had been frozen as relations plummeted amid a series of crises in 2011 and 2012, including the U.S. raid to kill Osama bin Laden at his hideout in Pakistan. The raid was carried out without Pakistani knowledge.
Washington has said the issue of whether to negotiate with the TTP was an internal matter for Pakistan, but stressed that the U.S. and Pakistan had "a vital, shared strategic interest in ending extremist violence."
Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., defended the drone strike that killed Mehsud during his appearance Sunday on CBS' Face the Nation.
"I mean, this was a bad guy. And, by the way, there's some information recently that concerned us about the safety of our troops. I feel a little better for our troops today than I did before this event happened. And, remember, this is the world we live in," Rogers said.
Meanwhile, the TTP announced Sunday that Asmatullah Shaheen Bhittani, the head of the TTP's supreme council, had been appointed as temporary leader while a permanent replacement for Mehsud is chosen.
Bhittani, who was seen as close to Mehsud, has been touted as a potential permanent replacement, as has the movement's number two Khan Said.