Imran bowls drone at Nawaz

ISLAMABAD/LAHORE – PTI Chairman Imran Khan has demanded of incoming prime minister Nawaz Sharif to make drone attacks stop inside Pakistan after taking charge or ask the PAF to shoot them down because the masses elected them due their anti-drone stance.
In a press statement on Thursday, Imran said that the masses had rejected the policies of General (r) Musharraf and want complete sovereignty for Pakistan.
As a prime minister the first thing Nawaz Sharif needs to do is either to stop the drone operations or shoot them down, the statement reads.
“We will not tolerate US drone attacks inside Pakistan. This is what the people of Pakistan want. They had voted the parties into power that have anti-drone policies,” Imran Khan said, adding that the next prime minister should announce to bring down US drones if they attempt to violate Pakistan’s air space.
Congratulating the speaker and deputy speaker of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly for their unopposed election, Imran directed incoming chief minister Pervez Khattak to give top priority to law and order, education and health after taking charge of the office.
There was no response from Nawaz Sharif camp to Imran’s statement, however, sources said that Nawaz Sharif may announce an anti US drone policy soon after taking charge as the prime minister. “We have noticed statement of Imran khan and brought it into the knowledge of Mian Nawaz Sharif as well, though he did not respond to it,” a trusted aide of Nawaz Sharif told TheNation.
Sources say that advisors of Nawaz Sharif suggested him not to issue any statement that is directly or indirectly related to the US policies in the region, arguing that such types of controversial statements may land him or his party’s government in trouble.
It has been learnt that the PTI is finalising an international petition which states that drones are inhuman and violate human rights.
“In a bid to gather support from International community against the US drone strikes inside Pakistan, we are in a middle of drafting a petition to be sent to international human rights organisations and UNO,” a PTI source said. He added that some PTI leaders had suggested Imran Khan to contact Angelina Jolie for getting her support against drone strikes.
Two weeks ago, Mian Nawaz Sharif, while speaking to the representatives of the foreign media, said that he would hold talks with the United States over drone attacks as they were a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty. “We will convince the US to stop drone attacks.”
Nawaz Sharif has been saying during his election campaign that drone attacks are a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and a challenge for the country’s autonomy and independence.
Analysts say that Imran’s demand of stopping drone attacks in Pakistan was valid and this is what Nawaz Sharif has been stating before election.
“I think both Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan are on the same page regarding policy against drone strikes,” a senior PTI leader said.
Separately, PTI Punjab President Ijaz Chaudhry told a press conference that in order to check the rigging in elections and identify its shortcomings the party leadership would review west Punjab region from June 8 to 10, central Punjab from June 11 to 15, south Punjab from June 16 to 20 and north Punjab from 21 June to 23.
Ijaz said that the masses would reject the government, if it fails to minimise the loadshedding. He said that the people had given their mandate against the drones and the incoming prime minister should hunt down the drones after taking charge of the office.

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Taliban withdraw peace talks offer

PESHAWAR – The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan has announced that they are withdrawing their offer of peace talks following the death of Waliur Rehman in an American drone attack.
Ehsanullah Ehsan confirmed to an American news agency in a telephone call from an undisclosed location Thursday that the group’s second-in-command, Waliur Rehman, was killed Wednesday in an American drone attack in the tribal areas of Pakistan.
The Taliban had said earlier that it was open to peace talks with the newly elected Pakistani government.
But Ehsan said Thursday that the Taliban believes the government approves of the drone strikes so they are withdrawing their offer of peace talks.
The Taliban will avenge the death of group’s No. 2 leader, Ehsanullah Ehsan told CNN. He said the group holds the Pakistani government responsible for the death of Waliur Rehman Mehsud. The Pakistani Taliban will not accept any offer from the government for a peace dialogue, Ehsan said.
Ehsan said Rehman – now buried in a secret North Waziristan location – was wanted by the United States on suspicion of being involved in the December 2009 suicide bomb attack that killed seven CIA employees at Forward Operating Base Chapman in Khost, Afghanistan, according to a publication by the US National Counterterrorism Center.
Meanwhile, the Pakistani Taliban have chosen a new deputy commander to replace their previous second-in-command who was killed in a US drone strike, sources in the militant group said on Thursday.
A Pakistani Taliban committee met late on Wednesday to choose a new deputy after Waliur Rehman was buried in a low-key ceremony, three Taliban members told Reuters.
The Taliban members said the new number two, Khan Sayed, 38, also known as Sajna, had served as Rehman’s deputy. He was involved in planning a 2011 attack on a Pakistani navy base in Karachi in which 18 people were killed and a 2012 jail break in which nearly 400 militant inmates escaped, they said. “There was absolute consensus over Khan Sayed,” one Pakistani Taliban member said.
Wednesday’s drone strike, that killed six other people, was the first in Pakistan since a May 11 general election in which strikes by the unmanned US aircraft was a major issue.
It was also the first reported US drone strike since President Barack Obama announced last week that the United States was scaling back the drone programme.
The Pakistani Taliban are a separate entity to the Afghan Taliban, though allied with them. Known as the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, they have launched devastating attacks against the Pakistani military and civilians.
Waliur Rehman had been tipped to succeed Hakimullah Mehsud as leader of the Pakistan Taliban and had been viewed as someone less hostile to the Pakistani military than some other top operatives.
While his death is a major blow for the militants, it could be also viewed as a setback for incoming prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s efforts to end violence.
He criticised drone strikes during the election campaign, describing them at one point as a ‘challenge’ to Pakistan’s sovereignty. Sharif also offered to hold talks with the militants.
“Waliur Rehman was a serious and mature man, his death could hurt prospects for an expected peace initiative considered by the new government,” a security official told Reuters.
However, many observers said any meaningful settlement with the Taliban was unlikely in any case given Sharif’s condition that the starting point for talks be respect for the country’s democratic order and institutions.
The White House did not confirm the killing, in line with its practice not to discuss drone strikes.
But its spokesman Jay Carney said Waliur Rehman “has participated in cross-border attacks in Afghanistan against US and NATO personnel and horrific attacks against Pakistani civilians and soldiers”.
Drones armed with missiles have carried out numerous strikes against militants in the North Waziristan Pashtun tribal region over the past seven years, sometimes with heavy civilian casualties.
A US drone killed Pakistani Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud in 2009. There had been several reports that his successor, Hakimullah Mehsud, was killed the same way but they turned out to be false.
North Waziristan has long been a stronghold of militants including Afghan Taliban and their Al-Qaeda and Pakistani Taliban allies.

US soldier to admit Afghan killings to escape death

LOS ANGELES : A US soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan villagers last year will plead guilty in exchange for escaping the death penalty and is sorry for what he did, his lawyers said Wednesday.Sergeant Robert Bales faces charges including 16 counts of murder, six of attempted murder and seven of assault over the massacre in southern Afghanistan in March last year.
Seventeen of the 22 victims were women or children and almost all were shot in the head. Prosecutors called in November for him to face the death penalty, setting a provisional date for court-martial in September.
His lawyer John Browne said Wednesday that on June 5, Bales will plead guilty.
“Today we announced that we reached an agreement with the military to take the death penalty off the table if he will plead” guilty, Browne said.
“And then he’ll have a sentencing trial in September to determine whether he can get life with parole or whether he will get life without parole,” Browne said in video broadcast on the BBC web site.
Asked if Bales was sorry, Browne said: “Absolutely. And I think that will become clear as the process goes forward. He’s very relieved that the death penalty is not on the table.”
The next hearing is scheduled for next Wednesday at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in the northwestern US state of Washington, where Bales is being held.
It will be “more or less a guilty plea hearing,” Browne said.
The plea bargain deal is likely to anger families of the victims who originally wanted him to face justice, and potentially a death penalty, in Afghanistan.
The 39-year-old allegedly left his base in the Panjwayi district of southern Kandahar province on the night of March 11, 2012, to commit the killings, which included nine children. Bales allegedly set several of their bodies on fire.
At a pre-trial hearing in November, Bales’s family insisted he was innocent until proven guilty, calling him “courageous and honorable,” while his lawyer raised questions about the role of alcohol, drugs and stress in the tragedy.
But prosecutors lashed the “heinous and despicable” alleged massacre during an eight-day hearing, details of which were given at the military base south of Seattle.
Prosecutors at the so-called Article 32 pre-trial hearing alleged that Bales left the base twice to carry out the killings, returning in between and even telling a colleague what he had done.
The hearing included three evening sessions – daytime in Afghanistan – to hear testimony by video conference from Afghan victims and relatives of those who died.
In a statement read out by the soldier’s sister Stephanie Tandberg after last year’s hearing, the family said it had yet to learn the how, why and what of the incident.
“Much of the testimony was painful, even heartbreaking, but we are not convinced the government has shown us the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about what happened that night,” it said.
“As a family, we all grieve deeply for the Afghani families who lost their loved ones on March 11, but we must all not rush to judgment.
“In America, due process means innocence is always presumed unless and until a trial proves otherwise. There has been no trial yet, and our family member is presumed by law, and by us, to be innocent.”