A Pakistani political party chaired by Imran Khan has vowed to continue a blockade established as part of a protest against CIA drone strikes, despite a warning from the United States that aid could be cut off if it is not halted.
Protests spearheaded by the political party, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), have been blockading a NATO supply route to Afghanistan since November 23. They pushed the US to suspend military shipments on the route last week because the officials were afraid they endangered drivers.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel met with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the country’s new army chief, Gen. Tahaeel Sharif. The issue of drone protests was one of the subjects discussed.
According to the Associated Press, unnamed defense officials told the news organization that Hagel “warned Pakistani leaders today that if they don’t resolve protests stalling some military shipments across the border with Afghanistan, it could be difficult to maintain political support in Washington for an aid program that has sent billions of dollars to Islamabad.”
Reuters indicated that Hagel had advised leaders “failure to get shipments moving through the gates soon could disrupt efforts to ensure timely US payment of Coalition Support Funds [CSF], reimbursements received by Pakistan for assistance provided to the coalition involved in the Afghan war effort.
“The official said the connection Hagel made was not a threat but an expression of what could happen in the highly politicized environment in Washington,” according to the report from Reuters.
In 2012, Pakistan received $688 million in reimbursements from CSF in the Pentagon budget. The country has received around $10.7 billion since 2001. “One-fifth to one-quarter of Pakistan’s total military expenditures,” come from CSF. The money helps fund “more than 100,000 Pakistani troops in the filed in northwest Pakistan by paying for their food, ammunition, clothing and housing,” according to the Congressional Research Service (CRS).
Hagel may not want the warning to be cast as a threat because it undermines diplomacy, however, it is a threat. The Pakistani government is dependent on this money. It is necessary to the funding of the country’s military.
Therefore, it is not surprising that what was reported is Pakistani leaders would take “immediate action”—whatever that might means—so that the “shipment problem” with land routes from the port of Karachi to Afghanistan were resolved.
Representatives from NATO issued requests to PTI to reopen supply routes. Khan denied the request and pledged to keep the protests going until drone strikes are stopped.
The protests have been a part of an escalation of resistance against US drone protests.
PTI has protest camps set up to sustain the blockade. Government officials are no longer participating to avoid legal problems. Party workers are staffing the ongoing campaign.
On November 27, PTI named CIA director John Brennan and the alleged CIA station chief in Pakistan as being responsible for the murder of six people killed in a drone strike that hit an Islamic school in Hangu. What is known as a first information report (FIR) was submitted to a local police station urging police to investigate the individuals behind crimes committed in violation of Pakistani laws.
While drone strikes have been declared illegal by a Pakistani high court, which characterized the strikes as war crimes, this was the first time that Pakistanis sought to use police to investigate the CIA responsible for a specific drone strike.
The strike against an Islamic school reportedly targeted militants associated with the Haqqani network. Ahmed Jan, also known as Maulana Ahmad Jan, was a “spiritual leader” for the Haqqani network and was killed. However, the Haqqani network has never been implicated in any attacks on the United States. The group is not a part of al Qaeda, although its members are believed to have cooperated with al Qaeda in the past. The members are not senior members of al Qaeda, which President Barack Obama has claimed are the people the US government targets in drone strikes.
In November, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, three confirmed CIA drone strikes took place and killed at least 11 people. None were reported to be civilians.
The US killed Hakimullah Mehsud, a leader of the Pakistan Taliban, on November 1. That effectively jeopardized any immediate possibility that peace talks would negotiate a settlement with the Taliban and the Pakistani government, and it was suspected that the strike may have been intentional to prevent peace talks from going forward.
One day after the PTI said it had revealed the identity of the CIA station chief in Pakistan, one to three people from the Punjabi Taliban were killed.
The public position of the Pakistani government is to oppose drone strikes. Jonathan Landay of McClatchy reported in April that Pakistan’s spy agency, ISI, has collaborated with the CIA in the drone war.
Numerous Pakistanis believe the government is not really doing all that it can to stop the drone strikes and, recently, Shahzad Akbar of the Foundation for Fundamental Rights (FFR) filed a contempt petition with the high court in Peshawar against the prime minister for failing to stop the drone strikes.
The government probably is not because it is in a precarious situation that has rendered it powerless. Billions of dollars in US funding have flowed into the country, and its leaders are dependent on it.