This refers to a report issued by academics and legal experts at Stanford and New York Universities’ law schools on the viability of drone attacks in Pakistan’s tribal areas. Before commenting on the report, we need to understand its standing: it was commissioned and funded by a UK-based charity, Reprieve, which is on the forefront of the campaign against drone attacks. Also the study researchers were unable to physically visit the tribal areas, obviously for security reasons, and were limited to Islamabad and other urban centres interviewing the possibly per-screened victims’ relatives and other people.

There is no doubt that drone attacks are causing collateral damage while killing innocent people, including children. But then what options are available to eliminate Al Qaeda and Taliban terrorists who now rule the Pakistani tribal areas.

The Pakistan army is neither trained nor equipped to fight such guerilla war in the rugged mountainous lawless tribal areas (they are trained for ground war); they have tried their capabilities in South Waziristan but even there they are not getting anywhere. They clear one area, only to find that militants have moved to another location, and this cat and mouse game continues. Pakistan has clearly declined any foreign troops on its soil. The only option was for tribes to take on the militants in their areas. But such anti-Taliban lashkars have failed to make any dent; they complain of lack of support from Pakistan military, also the Taliban have waged a brutal campaign to eliminate lashkar leaders.

Tell us what options are there on the table — military campaign at ground not going anywhere, tribal lashkars are being defeated by the Taliban, drone attacks are counterproductive as cause resentment among the local population invariably resulting in increased militancy. Wish the academics and researchers from Stanford and New York universities could have suggested how to get Pakistan, Afghanistan, the US and other neighbouring countries out of this dead end.


Jubail, October 15.