Pakistan's New Prime Minister: US Drone Attacks 'Must End'
Nawaz Sharif sets new priority list as he begins term
In a speech before the Pakistan parliament on Wednesday, newly elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif received overwhelming applause when he declared that forcing the US government to end its drone bombing campaign in the nation's tribal areas would be one of his top priorities.
"This daily routine of drone attacks, this chapter shall now be closed," Sharif said to widespread applause in the parliament hall. "We do respect others' sovereignty. It is mandatory on others that they respect our sovereignty."
Sharif, who was removed from power by a military coup in 1999, was returned to his former position as prime minister following a majority vote in the 342-seat parliament and now begins an unprecedented third term.
The deadly US drone strikes in the tribal areas have been a source of consistent and widespread outrage in Pakistan, but the US government under President Obama has continued the practice despite popular popular and government warnings saying that they undermine stability in the country and generate more anti-Americanism throughout the region.
According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the US has launched more than 360 drone attacks in Pakistan between 2004 and this year, with somewhere between 2,500 and 3,500 people killed. Among those, as many as 884 were determined to be "civilians," including nearly 200 children.
Despite the promise to somehow curb the strikes, Sharif reportedly offered few details on how he would compel the US to abandon the practice.
Al Jazeera's Imtiaz Tyab, reporting from Islamabad, said that Sharif said in an interview that he plans to go to Washington and implore US President Barack Obama to end the bombings.
"Here in Pakistan, drone strikes are extremely unpopular," Tyab reported, and said "[Sharif] needs to be seen doing something about it."