Our leaders and parliamentarians have been saying in unequivocal terms that drone strikes are just not acceptable, and after the recent drone attack, our officials even called US embassy staff to lodge a protest. The reply to our protest has now been received and it is not in the form of an apology and a promise to desist from these but by way of a more lethal strikes that killed ten people. Only recently, President Barack Obama's top counter-terrorism advisor Johan Brenan called drone strikes legal, ethical and proportional. Now we have a statement from US Secretary of State Leon Panetta confirming that in words as well as in deed, through the latest drone strike.

So, our request, warnings and even strong protests have been totally ineffective and the main reason is that the Americans are quite convinced that our leaders and lawmakers will limit their reaction to verbal protests and will not dare follow these through with physical means which they have at their disposal as confirmed by a former air chief who said Pakistan air force has the capability to stop drone attacks but the order must come from the civilian government. If our leaders want to have any credibility in the eyes of the people of Pakistan, they have got to issue that order. I think Pakistan's armed forces also have an independent duty to protect the integrity and sovereignty of the country and they would be within their rights to shoot down intruding drones and enemy aircraft. I vaguely remember that after Salala killings by Americans, chief of army staff gave orders that intruding aircraft be shot down, and this could be easily expanded to include drones. There have been cases where Afghan and Pakistani tribesmen shot down low-flying drones and it is just unacceptable to the masses that our top civilian and military leaders, as well as the lawmakers can't do much more than just lodging ineffective protests, and expressing outrage at the drone strikes, while American officials of much lower rank taunt them and humiliate them, and all of us, by their words and deeds.

According to some news reports, efforts are underway to resume Nato supplies through land routes which would be unacceptable to the masses if done without first obtaining high-level apology from the Americans, compensation for the soldiers killed, a firm pledge to stop drone strikes and other intrusions and immediate payment of coalition support fund arrears and other dues. Investigations should also be made to ensure that supplies are not getting through to Americans and their allies under cover of Afghan transit trade or similar ploys and supplies going through our airspace could also be stopped, if necessary.

S.R.H. HASHMI,

Karachi, May 5.