The flippancy with which our metropolitan commentators discuss drones makes me want to run to the jungle sometimes. I wonder whether they would hold the same cold opinions if CIA drones started surveillance of their well-kept urban neighbourhoods, firing a missile every now and then on some terrorist hiding in a house on their street, a wedding hall around the corner or a school full of children in the next block.

Would they then argue that since our law enforcing agencies had failed to apprehend members of militant gangs hiding in our cities, it is alright for CIA to bomb Clifton, Gulberg and F-7? Would they point at this or that terrorist successfully targeted by drones as a justification for the regular bombing of their boulevards and avenues, terming the deaths of their own as inevitable collateral damage? Would they still advise us not to get emotional about it?

Not long ago, the CIA wanted to send drones to Quetta and take out the militants there. More recently, a high-profile militant was killed in Islamabad and some members of terrorist outfits were arrested from Lahore and Karachi. Others are still in hiding, finding shelter with sympathetic groups in various parts of Pakistan. Going by the arguments of our metropolitan drone-apologists, this should be reason enough for the CIA to expand its surveillance and bombing to include all of Pakistan’s territory.

Actually, these metropolitan commentators are unlikely to have a problem with that as long as the faceless nameless drone victims are tucked away in a distant place, away from their hustling bustling cities. They are not moved by the murder of innocents and misery of millions of fellow citizens, the imposing reality on the ground that should inform their opinions. They’d rather echo imperial justifications for the illegal barbarity of drones, the narrative saturating their upscale urban spaces. Or, like the bulk of our political elite, throw up their hands in the air and convince us of our helplessness.

Disconnected from the lives and concerns of the public whose interests they are supposed to watch out for, they live in the bubble of their metropolitan social circles and power networks? They propagate the perspective peddled by powerful players in the relevant corridors of Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore, our metropolitan centers where most of the national media organizations are based. They believe in the imperial narrative as a believer believes the word of God.

The framework of our metropolitan discourse is defined in high places, in donor-funded conference halls and imperial embassies and consulates complete with their wining and dining, the freebies and consultancies, awards and scholarships. Our opinion-makers form their world-view ensconced in spine-bending sofas in private drawing rooms with entrenched national power players, resourceful foreigners, western diplomats and their minions. They look at their country with imported binoculars and dismiss the voice of their countrymen as useless emotionality.

These drone-apologists took the recent strike in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s town of Hangu pretty much in their stride, conveniently glossing over the distinction between tribal and settled areas that has otherwise been used to confuse the issue and create a distraction, when it suited them. Actually, the distinction is meaningless when it comes to drones. Those being killed, maimed, displaced and terrorized on a daily basis are citizens of Pakistan. But their story has been reduced to a footnote of imperial propaganda by our oh-so-smart and ‘rational’ metropolitan commentators.

Any attempt to bring the story of drone victims to the foreground is discredited, as is obvious by the hostile response to the PTI’s anti-drone campaign in the media. The usual simplistic formulation is employed: if you are against drones, you are a sympathizer of or an apologist for terrorists. As if anti-drone activists around the world, in European capitals and on the streets of America, have a soft spot for the TTP. As if the unacceptable barbarity and blatant illegality of drones is not an issue.

In fact, there is nothing rational about those justifying CIA drones or convincing us that we should not even try to do something about it. Their yardsticks are borrowed from the politics of status quo; people must abide by laws and agreements enacted by powerful interests even when they are used to deny them their rights and rob them of their lives and properties; there is nothing such as solidarity; everybody should behave like good obedient boys and girls and not protest tyranny. If we were to go by this yardstick, we would end up discrediting all popular movements for independence from colonial rule, for civil rights, for democracy or for the rule of law.

The drone-apologist would also like us to swallow the imperialist hogwash about humanitarian intervention, giving the office of world policeman to the US on a platter without questioning its obviously tarnished credentials. We are expected to believe the hypocritical narrative that wraps up imperial ambition in deceptive covers of fighting terrorism, democracy and human rights. This at a time when the duplicity of the US-led empire and the death and destruction caused by it all over the world stands thoroughly exposed.

The drone-apologists would like us to believe the master of deception and intrigue and forget about millions of our countrymen devastated by its lies. This is a sure recipe for pushing drone-victims towards alienation from Pakistan and Pakistanis. When we leave them to the mercy of an alien war-machine with sophisticated weapons and gadgetry, watching their women, children and elderly being murdered without doing anything, without even protesting meaningfully, what message do we send them? What message do the drone-apologists dominating our media send them? Such atrocities are unacceptable against any community in the world and must be protested. Yet we find these commentators cheering the drones and brushing our people under the carpet.

It’s not that the hearts of our metropolitan commentators are made of stone. You could see their hearts bleeding for an assortment of people and causes sanctioned by the narrative of the empire. After all, it is so much closer to their metropolitan lives than some poor people being killed, maimed, displaced and terrorized in remote villages on our border with Afghanistan.

The writer is a freelance columnist.