Monday, November 26, 2012

Pakistan races to develop armed drones: Reports

Pakistani military and civil experts are secretly racing to develop surveillance and armed drones in order to tackle militancy across the militant-riddled region, media reports say.

This comes after Washington refused to equip Islamabad with sensitive nature of the technology and doubts that Pakistan would reliably target US enemies.

Pakistani military officials and civilians involved in the domestic drone industry told the Associated Press on condition of anonymity that Islamabad was struggling in its initial tests with a lack of precision munitions and advanced targeting technology.

Pakistani Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf has said Islamabad would look for help from Beijing in response to US technological apartheid.

“Pakistan can also benefit from China in defense collaboration, offsetting the undeclared technological apartheid,” said Ashraf at a defense exhibition in the southern port city of Karachi last week.

The British newspaper The Guardian said in a report on Tuesday that Pakistani military and civilian experts were working on an armed drone but did not provide details.

Pakistan had earlier demanded Washington provide it with armed drones, saying it could more effectively carry out attacks against militants in the country's troubled northwest near the porous border with Afghanistan.
American officials held several rounds of talks with Pakistani authorities about providing unarmed surveillance drones, but the discussions have gone nowhere.
The aerial attacks were initiated by former US President George W. Bush, but have escalated under President Barack Obama.

Obama has given no indication he would halt or alter the drone campaign in Pakistan and some other Muslim countries.

Pakistani tribal regions are the target of US terror drones, with Washington claiming that its unmanned aircraft are targeting militants. However, casualty figures clearly indicate that Pakistani civilians are the main victims of the assaults.

The killing of Pakistani civilians, including women and children, in the strikes has strained relations between Islamabad and Washington, prompting Pakistani officials to send warnings to the US administration over the assaults.

Despite Pakistani government’s repeated calls on Washington to end the drone attacks, the US government continues its strikes on the tribal regions of the country.