Pakistan secretly endorsed US drone program despite public condemnation: Report


Pakistani demonstrators shout anti-US slogans during a protest in Multan in January 2013, against the drone attacks in Pakistan's tribal areas. The Pakistan Taliban's second-in-command, Wali-ur-Rehman, was reportedly killed in a drone strike on May 29, 2013.



On Wednesday, when Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif met US President Barack Obama, he said he emphasized "the need to end [drone] strikes."

However, reports published on the same day claimed that top officials in Pakistan not only knew about drone strikes on their territory for years, but secretly endorsed them.

The Washington Post, citing top-secret documents from the US' Central Intelligence Agency and Pakistani memos, said that in the early years the CIA sometimes used Pakistani airstrips for its Predator drones.

"Markings on the documents indicate that many of them were prepared by the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center specifically to be shared with Pakistan’s government," The Post noted. The documents also suggest the Pakistani government had a hand in choosing targets.

The National Journal reported Wednesday that a secret agreement forged by the administrations of Obama's predecessor, President George W. Bush, and former Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf approved many of the strikes.

"The exact terms were never shared with civilians but there was a protocol between the Musharraf government and the Americans," a former senior Pakistani official told The National Journal.

Sharif, who was ousted by Musharraf in 1999 and got elected back into office in June, has been vocal in his criticism of the drone program.

“Whatever understandings there may or may not have been in the past, the present government has been very clear regarding its policy on the issue,” Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, a spokesman for Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry, told The Post.

“We regard such strikes as a violation of our sovereignty as well as international law. They are also counter-productive.”

More from GlobalPost: Sharif urged Obama to end drone strikes in Pakistan, he says

The drone program has played an essential role in the Obama administration's counterterrorism strategy, but the number of strikes has been reduced sharply in recent months.

The Post said there have been 23 strikes in Pakistan in 2013, far less than three years ago when 117 were reported.

On Thursday, former Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani denied The Post's report.

"We have never allowed Americans to carry out drone attack in the tribal areas," Gilani told Agence France-Presse. "From the very beginning we are against drone strikes and we have conveyed it to Americans at all forums."

It has been a high-profile week for the United States' secretive drone program, with both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International publishing reports Tuesday that claimed the strikes violated international law and in some cases amounted to war crimes.

More from GlobalPost: Will the US drone program turn the country into a pariah?