FAROOQ HAMEED KHAN In December 2009, President Obama authorised expansion of the drone war in parallel to the decision to send 30,000 more American troops to Afghanistan. The US defence budget for 2011 seeks a 75 percent increase in funds to enhance the drone operations. Armed with Hellfire missiles, the pilotless drones are the new weapons of choice in the US fight against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan. What have the over 100 drone attacks in FATA achieved so far? Run by a bunch of trigger happy joy stick controllers from air-conditioned trailers in the Nevadan desert, this video game killed around 1,350 unarmed civilians with over 500 injured, though exact on-ground figures are feared to be much higher. Only 15 to 20 so-called high value Al-Qaeda and Taliban targets are claimed to be killed to date. In 2009, the US had threatened to expand the drone attacks in Balochistan around Quetta to target the Afghan Talibans Quetta Shura. This option was dispensed with, after a severe Pakistani response that any such step by the US would be considered as an act of war against Pakistan. However, the recent twin drone attacks in Khyber Agency, the first ever in close proximity to Peshawar, confirm that the US is implementing its threats of widening the drone campaign in Pakistan. While there were 47 drone strikes in 2009 with 708 killed, this year has already seen 35 attacks causing 350 civilian deaths. More intensified drone strikes mean more innocent men, women and children are getting killed causing increased hatred against the US. Consequently, more young tribals line up to join their militant comrades with calls for revenge growing louder. So when retaliation comes in the form of militants hit and run attacks against the US and NATO logistic convoys in FATA or Balochistan, the Americans get to taste the sweet Taliban revenge. But there again poor Pakistanis face the militants wrath and die for a worthless cause. In the recent devastating strike in Sangjani, only a few kilometres from Islamabad, the attackers not only reduced to ashes around 50 NATO trucks or trailers, but brutally killed over a dozen civilian truck drivers and cleaners. On the positive side, the opposition to drone attacks is gaining momentum in the US. Congressman Dennis Kucinich asserted that the US was violating international law by carrying out strikes against a country that never attacked it. Peace activists under the CODEPINK banner regularly protest outside the Creech Air Force Base in Las Vegas, Nevada, from where drone missions are remotely guided. Jeffrey Addicott, a former legal Adviser to US Special Forces and Director of the Centre for Terrorism Law in San Antonio, Texas, recently stated: Some of the CIA operators are concerned that, because of its blowback effect, it is doing more harm than good. He further added: Because the drones kill innocent civilians and bystanders along with leaders from far away, they 'infuriate the Muslim male, thus making them more willing to join the movement. Pity the Pakistani nation that is kept in dark about whether the drones were taking off from its soil. However, Pakistanis seemed to slowly reconcile to the unfortunate reality that these unmanned, armed aerial vehicles may be operating from our own backyard to bomb our own people. In this context, when US Senator Diane Feinstein made the startling disclosure early last year, that these Predators were flown out of a Pakistani base, our leaders categorically denied it. Indeed, one Washington Posts report of September 2008 stated that while Pakistan formally protests such actions as a violation of its sovereignty, the Pakistani government has generally looked the other way when the CIA conducted Predator missions or US troops responded to cross-border attacks by the Taliban. This fact notwithstanding, a former PAF Air Chief had declared that drones could be shot down if ordered by the government. To what extent has Pakistans sovereignty been compromised in exchange for a few billion crispy US dollars? The nation has a right to know if there existed any secret agreement (about drones) between General Musharraf or President Zardari with the US administration. Since the government has failed to protect its citizens, our only hope remains in the Honourable Chief Justice of Pakistan. I believe that nobody can stop Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry from taking suo motu notice of the killings of helpless FATA civilians. So the CJ should order the government to make public any Pak-US agreement and stop these criminal attacks. One cannot but condemn the reported statement of a veteran politician and our former Ambassador to USA, who talked about drone strikes in Punjab in the aftermath of the recent attacks on Ahmadi worship places in Lahore. Likewise, another senior ANP politician had also called for such drone attacks. Then why blame our enemies across the borders, when there is no dearth of the same within our ranks. In a significant development this month, UN Human Rights investigator Philip Alstons report questions the legality of CIA-directed drone attacks, calling them a license to kill without accountability. In a BBC interview, he stated: My concern is that these drones, these Predators, are being operated in a framework which may well violate international humanitarian law and international human rights law. Alston, who is also the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions, declared: The US should explain the legal basis for attacking individuals with the remote-controlled aircraft. Alstons report criticised the United States for being, the most prolific user of targeted killings in the world. Does Alstons report make the US guilty of crimes against humanity? But how will history judge the Pakistani rulers who allowed foreign operated drones to kill their own people? Who should be held accountable for the killing of innocent Pakistani tribals? Can a corrupt and weak leadership safeguard the interests of its citizens? While our top rulers remain preoccupied in the extravaganzas of the Presidency and PM House, their countrymen get roasted in drone attacks almost daily. From Gilgit to Karachi, the nation must rise to wipe off this stigma on our national dignity and sovereignty. Pakistan has a strong, moral and legitimate case to knock the doors of the UN Security Council, as well as the International Court of Justice, to stop this gory drama of death and destruction on our soil. If only our leadership stood up for the countrys honour The writer is a retired brigadier. Email: fhkhan54@gmail.com