The drone strike on Thursday that left 21 suspected militants dead in North Waziristan Agency coincided with the trilateral summit in Islamabad. The general perception is that the strike was a ‘message’ to the three leaders: Karzai, Ahmedinejad and Zardari, that there were those other than them, who are actually in command of the Afghan conundrum.
There are those who would argue that the US would not kill a whole bunch of people merely to send messages. Yet it has in the past been manoeuvring the drone warfare to bully as well as coax us into submission. For instance after the Raymond Davis incident, the US carried out a few deadly attacks and then abruptly took a break -- although a short one – because it was worried about the fallout of the strikes. Likewise a sudden and alarming increase in the frequency of the attacks occurred when the government showed the door to CIA covert operatives. Yet another example was when after the Salalah incident, and subsequent embargo on Nato goods, the US called off strikes in order to win support for restoration of the supplies. Hence for these reasons, it can be assumed that drone warfare apart from their apparent raison d’ etre of eliminating the terrorist sanctuaries is used as a political weapon.
Thursday’s attack must be condemned strongly. We must not solely be worried about the political messages these strikes purport to generate but primarily because it violates our sovereignty. It is hard indeed to track the death toll especially of innocent civilians. The ensuing backlash also exacerbates the law and order situation. Suicide blasts have become a daily occurrence. An anonymous US official rightly puts it that these strikes are a ‘recruiting windfall’ for the militants. Our Chief of Air Staff has already assured that the air force can shoot down the drones. There should hence be no reluctance on the government’s part to give it a go ahead especially given the Parliament’s resolution calling for a firm stand against such aerial aggression. The fear that bringing down the drones would lead to open hostilities is also misplaced. The US is already pushed to the wall in Afghanistan by the Taliban. And secondly because of its long drawn tussle with Iran over its nuclear programme, it cannot dare confront Pakistan head on.
The reservation that foreigners from Central Asian Republics and Afghanistan are holed up in the tribal areas must be addressed because over the years it has added to Pakistan’s problems. Reportedly, a number of such foreigners have over the years raised families, a factor that is sometimes used to justify their stay inside Pakistan. Given the circumstances repatriating them along with their families, harsh as it might seem – is the only option that we are left with. Once they are driven out, American adventurism will also die its natural death.