NEW YORK, Sept 26: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has said that he will proceed with a plan to build a gas pipeline from Iran, despite objections from the US.
In an interview to Wall Street Journal, published on Thursday, Mr Sharif also said he planned to use his speech at the United Nations on Friday to criticise American drone strikes in his country.
The prime minister also spelled out, for the first time, the conditions that Pakistani Taliban would have to accept if his government proceeded with a peace deal with the militant group.
He demanded that they lay down arms and recognise Pakistan’s Constitution. At the same time, he voiced fears that continued US drone attacks would wreck his policy to negotiate with the Pakistani Taliban, a group closely linked to Al Qaeda.
Talking about the Iran gas pipeline, Mr Sharif said: “Pakistan needs gas very badly. We have to run our power plants. We need gas for them. There is an acute shortage of gas in Pakistan, so we have to import gas from somewhere.”
He said that in Islamabad’s legal opinion, the pipeline wouldn’t trigger US sanctions.
He said that Pakistan would proceed “unless you give us the gas, or the $3 million a day”, which it was losing because of the gas shortage.
In his speech on Friday at the UN, Mr Sharif said he planned to say that American drone strikes in his country were illegal, as they breached Pakistan’s territorial sovereignty. He said that weapon was also counterproductive as it was producing more “terrorists”.
“The more the drones, the more the terrorists get multiplied. You kill one man, his sons, his father, his brothers, they all become terrorists. So this is something that is not helping at all,” he said.
Mr Sharif said he was particularly concerned that drone attacks now could derail his offer of peace talks to the Pakistani Taliban, who operated separately from the Afghan Taliban. The militant group has demanded that Islamabad stop the drone strikes before negotiations begin.
“Once the talks start, then of course, we consider them (drones) as something that has the ability to break the talks, which must be avoided at all costs,” said Mr Sharif.