Drone strikes

12 Feb 2018

  • Does Pakistan wish to be a sovereign state?

On January 24, 2018, the United States of America carried out its first drone strike of the year. The attack took place in Speen Tal, located on the border area of the Hangu district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Two commanders of the Haqqani network, Ehsan Ullah and Nasir Mehmood, were allegedly killed in this strike. Pakistan condemned the drone strike and protested the US’s actions. The Pakistan Foreign Office stated that “a camp of Afghan refugees was targeted in the strike. Such one-sided actions would be harmful to mutual cooperation.” It is clear now that drone strikes have resumed in Pakistan. Pakistan recently handed over 27 Taliban and Haqani network terrorists to Afghanistan, supporting the stance taken by the US that the Taliban and the Haqqani network are operating on Pakistan’s soil.

Drone technology claims to be the best technology, because it is frugal and takes out the target with less collateral damage. Warplane strikes cause more human and civilian loss. In the past, local people were of the opinion that drone strikes are a far better alternative.

On October 30, 2013, during the Muslim League (N) government, a Senate session was held in which the ministry of defense acknowledged that from 2008 to 2013, a total of 317 drone strikes were carried out. During those strikes, 2,227 people were killed, of which 2,160 were militants and 67 were civilians, making civilian causalities only three percent of the total. Of the militants killed in the drone strikes, many were ‘jet-black’ terrorists, a term used to describe hardcore terrorists who have committed violent crimes in Pakistan. Bait Ullah Mehsud, Hakeem Ullah Mehsud are among the many most wanted in Pakistan who were eliminated in the American drone strikes, after Pakistani security forces failed in nabbing them.

According to Article A-19 of the 18th amendment to the Constitution, every citizen has the right to information. Does the public not have the right to know about changes in the defense and internal policy of their country? If this all of this is happening according to the government’s will, it must be conveyed to the public

These drone strikes leave the sovereignty of Pakistan in question. The authority over such drone strikes must lie with Pakistan. If the strikes were carried out after taking Pakistan into confidence, there is no harm done. But, the government and the security forces of Pakistan have taken the stance that the drone strikes had been carried out without the consent of Pakistan. In 2010, WikiLeaks revealed that the drone strikes in Pakistan were being carried out with the consent of Pakistan. The government therefore had a policy of secretly endorsing the drone strikes which it would then denounce in public.

Are the strikes are still going on with the permission of the government and security forces? If so, the public should be informed to counteract the sense of insecurity is brewing among the public that comes from feeling like they are being left in the dark. It is frightful to think that the strikes may be happening without Pakistan’s consent.

When India makes the claim for surgical strikes, the whole nation is gripped with anti-India fervor. On the other hand, when America, violating Pakistan’s boundaries, carries out drone strikes, why is there hardly any protest? Pakistan does not even go so far in protest as to block the NATO supplies it is receiving. In Syria, when a Russian warplane violated Turkish airspace for a moment by mistake, Turkey instantly shot down the plane. If the Pakistani air defense capability is equal to that of Turkey, why are the American drones not being shot down? Is it a lack of competence, or something else?

According to Article A-19 of the 18th amendment to the Constitution, every citizen has the right to information. Does the public not have the right to know about changes in the defense and internal policy of their country? If this all of this is happening according to the government’s will, it must be conveyed to the public. If a major base of support for the Taliban and the Haqqani network in Pakistan comes from Afghanis, then why are the Afghan refugees in Pakistan not being repatriated?

The present Muslim League (N) government has two major allies: Mahmood Khan Achakzai and Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman. In a June 30, 2016 interview, Mahmood Khan Achakzai told an Afghan newspaper that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is part of Afghanistan. For that reason, he claims that Afghan citizens can live there without Pakistani consent. Mahmood Khan Achakzai is against the repatriation of the Afghan refugees. In order to not upset their allies and thereby lose their support, the government is reluctant to implement legislation for the repatriation of Afghans and FATA reform. The draconian Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR) deny the inhabitants of FATA their basic human rights. The media is not allowed access to FATA, which does not even lie within the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. The lack of media presence in the area makes it hard to obtain facts. Were terrorists actually being killed in the drone strikes, or civilians? Pakistan’s courts took the notice of the murder of innocent Naqeeb Ullah, but not of the innocent people who are being murdered in drone strikes. Due to the FCR, that area is out of the jurisdiction of Pakistani courts.

If Pakistan wishes to be a sovereign state, those in charge need to put the facts before the public as mandated by the Access to Information Act. Instead of being held hostage by governmental allies, bold steps need to be taken, which now that the drone strikes have begun again are more necessary than ever. The draconian FCR must be completely abolished and arrangements must be made for the immediate repatriation of the Afghan refugees, for whom Pakistan is no longer able to bear the burden.

Published in “Pakistan Today” on 07 feb 2018.

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