Pakistan’s government is prepared to start high profile talks on the US-Pakistani relationship tomorrow, and parliament is expected to focus strongly on the US drone strikes against Pakistani territory, an issue that has become increasingly important with the rise of anti-US sentiment as a potential election issue.
Pakistan’s President Zardari, long under fire for his pro-US positions, is expected to come under fire from the opposition, including leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, who demanded that the drone strikes be immediately stopped.
Though the US isn’t launching as many drone strikes so far this year, they have continued to be a regular occurrence in North and South Waziristan, killing dozens of unidentified tribesmen whom the Zardari government inevitably describes as “suspects.” Large numbers of civilians have been confirmed to have been killed, but the US says grounding the drones isn’t even under consideration.
Which leaves Pakistan in the same place its always been, with the military saying it is willing to shoot down the drones and the Zardari government griping about the strikes officially, but doing absolutely nothing to limit their impact.
With elections looming either late this year or early in 2013, the opposition is clearly going to make this a contentious issue. Whether Zardari is unwilling to stop the drones because of his cozy US ties, or is simply unable to as a virtually lame duck president, the hearing is likely to cement US drone strikes as a top issue for Pakistanis.