ISLAMABAD — Pakistan has summoned the U.S. ambassador to register a strong protest against the killing of Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud in a U.S. drone strike.
Pakistan's Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said Saturday the drone strike has undercut government efforts to negotiate a peaceful end to the decade-long Taliban insurgency.
Khan said the government also has taken several other retaliatory decisions but he would not say if that included the suspension of convoys ferrying supplies through Pakistan to U.S.-led international forces in Afghanistan.
Earlier, Pakistani politician and former cricketer Imran Khan vowed to block NATO supplies from passing through Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province along the Afghan border.
The province, which is ruled by Imran Khan's political party, is a key route through which NATO supplies move in and out of Afghanistan.
The interior minister said a government delegation was on its way to speak with Mehsud Friday when drone missiles struck his compound in North Waziristan.
Pakistani and U.S. officials have confirmed Mehsud was killed in the attack.
It is unclear if the Pakistani Taliban has chosen a new leader. Some reports say the group's second in command, Khan Said, also known as Sajna, was promoted on Saturday. Others quote Taliban spokesmen saying a new leader will be chosen within a few days.
The 34-year-old Mehsud took over the Pakistani Taliban in 2009 when its previous head was killed, also by a drone strike.
The U.S. had a $5 million bounty on Mehsud. He was accused of involvement in a deadly suicide attack on a CIA compound in Afghanistan in 2009 and a failed bombing of New York's Times Square in 2010.
Mehsud's cousin, uncle and a bodyguard were also reportedly killed in the CIA attack on the compound, which sources confirmed to VOA was used by the Taliban leader.
Pakistani leaders say they strongly oppose U.S. drone strikes, but some critics believe the operations are part of a secret agreement under which Pakistan tacitly approves the U.S. strikes.
Across the region there were mixed reactions to the news of Mehsud's death. While some welcomed the killing of the militant commander, seen as responsible for the death of thousands of civilians and security forces in Pakistan, others said Washington had destroyed the chance for peace talks.
Analyst Raza Rumi, a senior fellow at the Jinnah Institute, dismissed that argument. He says that acting against Mehsud would have robbed political leaders of badly needed right-wing Islamist political support, so they had preferred to publicly pursue the idea of negotiations, even though there was little substance to the policy.
Rumi also suggested the drone strike had Pakistan’s tacit support.
"Obviously such precise intelligence and information must have come from local sources, and there are views in Pakistani media as well which are saying that you know there must be some level of cooperation going on in getting these targets eliminated," he said.
Author and analyst Ahmed Rashid said U.S. missile strike follows a pattern by the U.S. authorities.
"In a way the Americans have had this habit of stopping any kind of dialogue between either the Pakistani army or the Pakistani government, with the Pakistani Taliban by using drones to knock out some important figure. And that is exactly what they have done this time,” he said.
Many fear that fighters belonging to the Pakistani Taliban, an umbrella organization for a number of militant groups sharing an extremist Islamist ideology, will take revenge for Mehsud’s death.
VOA correspondent Sharon Behn contributed to this report from Islamabad, and some information was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.