For the longest time, the life for a tribal inhabitant on both sides of Pakistan and Afghanistan has been challenging and miserable. Since colonial rule, none of the governments whether political, dictatorships or other forms of administrative rule have provided them basic necessities of life that one is accustomed to in other parts of Pakistan.
For decades, these deprived and neglected people have become the victims of modern human slavery at the hands of powerful and privileged elites that often use them as a commodity to sell their political and economic agendas. This, in reality, translates as having little or no access to higher education, health facilities, and modern day communication facilities. For innocent people living in the tribal areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan, what is more, shocking is that they had been treated like a “kebab” in a sandwich by those involved in a power struggle to take control of their natural resources.
At worse, the American-led war on terror has brought them yet another unpleasant and troublesome news in the form of Drones! The story of drone strikes reflects two significant points. Firstly, the value of human life is not the same as in the real world. Surely, if anyone has any doubt in this argument then follow the differential media coverage of terrorist attacks in Paris and Beirut.
Secondly, the establishment on both sides has their own political and economic priorities and preferences in which ordinary civilians have a little value. The war on terror that has brought drone warfare to Pakistan has little to do with fighting terrorism and more to do with the political game and power ambitions on both sides.
A few leading critics and journalists including Mark Mazzetti have disclosed that “in secret negotiations, the terms of the bargain were set… Both sides agreed that all drone flights in Pakistan would operate under the C.I.A’s covert action authority, meaning that the United States would never acknowledge the missile strikes and that Pakistan would either take credit for the individual killings or remain silent.”
It is a known fact that the Pakistani establishment has used a “fear factory” to frighten ordinary people that if we refuse or challenge the American viewpoint on the use of drones they will send us back to “the stone age.”
Former President of Pakistan and military hard-man General Pervez Musharraf openly admitted in his book that he had offered assistance and authorisation to the American forces to carry on drone strikes in Pakistan by allowing them to use Shamsi Airbase, also known to the public as ‘Bhandari Airstrip’ located in Baluchistan province in the South-West of Quetta.
Even for democratically elected governments such as the Pakistan People’s Party, the fate of the civilians in drone strikes showed no priority. In a TV talk show, the former ISI Chief, late General Hamid Gul disclosed how Pakistan’s former President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gillani had undermined the importance of Pakistani civilians. According to General Gul, Zardari stated as “it is not my worry that if civilians are dying in drone attacks” whilst Gillani assured Americans that “you continue your operations whilst we will continue to [phoney] protest.”
The military and political leadership of Pakistan and Afghanistan are complicit to a large extent in failing to safeguard innocent civilians. This is what our governments and their imbedded journalists have told us since the start of never ending war on terror that has taken thousands of lives whilst leaving hundreds of people permanently disabled.
So far, the media has raised profiles of criminals and culprits to the point of dangerous and most wanted terrorists that had never existed in real life or exaggerated- why the media hardly ever showed their dead bodies.
In a Russian State Television programme, “Cross Talk show” aired on 20 March 2013, Judy Bello of ‘Upstate Drone Action’ in her comment said, “The real point is not controlling the Taliban, the real point is keeping the war going from the standpoint of American government that is their objective”.
She further said that “Normally people don’t care about what happening and they don’t think what’s happening and it’s outside normal society” she argued that the real point is that drones keep the war going and their use has been utterly counterproductive. A research study claimed, “The US drone policy in the region has not helped Washington achieve its goal of curbing terrorism in the region”. A prominent defence consultant, Ehsan Ahrari, has raised a significant question that “What is the effect of the Drone’s attack?, the effect of drone’s attack is that the popularity of United States is rock-bottom in Pakistan”
Evidence shows that Pakistan is capable of shooting down drones as it has already shot-down Indian drone. So what is that special in case of American ones? Why can’t Pakistan down American illegal drones? Ordinary people often says that whilst in our neighbouring Iran military can shoot down spy American drone so what has stopped us from shooting down American drones that openly sabotage our sovereignty? The reason is that the Pakistani Army has always been India-centric which is fair enough but is it wise to protect one set of people whilst the other half of the same nation are allowed to be victims?
Like Americans are least interested to treat gun shootings their co-elite joint ventures in Pakistan and elsewhere are little enthralled in waging war on financial terrorist’s right at the heart of their country, for instance in economic hub Karachi, where the members and cabinet ministers of two main political parties MQM and PPP have been involved in millions of dollars corruption. Of course, no wise person has ever suggested beginning a war with America. There are peaceful options and ways to deal with drone attacks as Imran Khan had offered a third option that is to negotiate on our terms in a peaceful way. Back in October 2012, when Imran Khan organised a protest march against the American Drone Warfare in Pakistan, he was joined by a number of American peace activists.
Diplomatic choices are available only if our government was capable enough to lobby and presented it in the case of drone strikes. Have the Americans invaded Turkey for disallowing them to use Turkey’s airspace on the number of occasions? Or have the Americans attacked Iran for downing their drone? Or have the Russians attacked Turkey and send it to “the stone age” over the controversial shooting-down of its fighter jet? The answer is simply a No! No wise government starts war nor could any living sovereign nation allow others to compromise its freedom-
Iram Khalid is right to suggest that, “Pakistan should highlight its counter militancy measures in international community by media campaign, effective diplomacy at UN and speedy trial of militants in courts to give them a strong message”
As the Trump administration has approved new powers to kill [potential terrorists] in drone strikes that are so far counterproductive and more costly in terms of human loss. So the question remains that whether or not the Pakistani establishment could be in a position to defend its civilians and present its case on the international level.