Pakistan’s government has lashed out at the U.S. after a Nov. 1 drone reportedly killed the leader of the Pakistan Taliban hours before peace talks between the government and militant group were to get underway.
At a Nov. 2 press conference, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan called the strike a direct attack on the peace process, and said Islamabad would be reviewing its rocky relationship with Washington.
Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) head Hakimullah Mehsud was killed by a drone at a compound in North Waziristan on Friday evening, according to Pakistan and militant sources. “The government of Pakistan does not see this strike as a strike on an individual, but on the peace process,” Nisar told reporters.
Imran Khan, the cricketer-turned-politico who heads the Tehrik-i-Insaf party (PTI), has also condemned the timing of the strike, saying the U.S. has been thwarting the peace process in Pakistan with the ongoing CIA secret drone campaign in the country.
In retaliation, he has proposed to block NATO supplies to Afghanistan that run through the province where his party is in power.
Reaction to the death of the infamous militant chief has been mixed in Pakistan.
While many are understandably relieved to see the head of a group that terrorizes the nation go, fears that the TTP will retaliate in urban areas in particular are widespread. And others, including the government and Taliban sympathizers, see Friday’s strike as yet another affront to Pakistan’s sovereignty.
The nation is also divided over whether the government should be talking to the militants at all. A key part of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s platform in May elections was initiating peace talks, but many question whether the now is time for the government to negotiate with the still violent group.
“The Talibs are killing people every second day,” says Shaukat Qadir, a retired Brigadier of the Pakistan Army. “The TTP is looking for political space through violence. Should we give them that space? They should surrender.”