Nawaz Sharif has called on the United States to stop drone attacks on Pakistani territory in his first speech after being elected prime minister for an historic third term.
Nawaz Sharif: Missile strikes by unmanned US aircraft have been very unpopular in Pakistan
In a short speech following a vote in the National Assembly, Mr Sharif said Pakistan would respect other countries’ sovereignty but expected its own territorial integrity to be respected too.
The use of American drone aircraft to attack Taliban and al-Qaedatargets in Pakistan’s lawless tribal areas close to the Afghan border must stop, he said.
“This daily business of drones must finish. Let’s also address the concerns of other countries as well,” he said.
Mr Sharif voiced his opposition to drone attacks throughout his campaign and stressed his desire to open peace talks with the militants, but it remains to be seen how forcefully he will act in power.
The Pakistan Army, while opposed to drone attacks, regards talks with the Taliban as futile after the breakdown of a number of earlier peace agreements.
The new prime minister’s comments on drone attacks came barely a week after the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan’s deputy leader Wali-ur Rehman was killed in an American air strike in north Waziristan and his militant group responded by withdrawing its offer to begin peace talks with the new government.
After defeating rival candidates from the Pakistan People’s Party and Imran Khan’s PTI, Mr Sharif spoke of the need to reviving the country’s economic and energy crises and pledged to tackle power cuts of upto 20 hours per day.
“We will be addressing the issue of energy crisis and will reveal a plan soon to improve the situation,” he said. He sought to dampen expectations, however, of a speedy solution.
He highlighted the country’s worsening law and order situation but did not mention the Taliban insurgency fueling it. He did however stress that the country needs peace in its tribal border areas, Balochistan and Karachi, its largest city.
Mr Sharif also mentioned his recent meeting with the Chinese premier and talked about greater collaboration between the two countries, especially with regards to the new port in Balochistan. “Gwadar will be made a free port,” he said, adding that a new road and rail network will be also built to connect China with Pakistan.
Political Analyst Raza Rumi said the new prime minister had highlighted his own supporters’ comcerns on corruption, energy, the economy, but also reassured Washington and other allies in the war on terrorism that he would listen to their concerns on curbing militancy.