An unfortunate incident happened on September 11, 2001, when some 19 terrorists committed suicide by flying aircrafts into the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon building in Washington DC, taking over 300 innocent lives with them.
It was no doubt a brutal act against humanity and strongly condemnable. Nations around the world, including Pakistan, not only condemned that attacks but also pledged to support the United States in eliminating terrorism from every nook and cranny.
States having similar strategic interests in the region brought major shifts in their foreign policies or some others were forced to shift their policies and launched a war against terror in Afghanistan, under the umbrella of the United Nations, some 16 years back.
Thousands of people, not all terrorists or supporter of terrorists, were killed and the strength of those, who have lost their body parts and became dependent financially on their families, is uncountable. Besides, thousands of others were taken into prison and shifted to Guantanamo and most of them were innocent from terrorist activities. ‘God’ knows how long this game of causalities and disabilities will continue as the war against terror has no sign of ending yet.
With the passage of time, the war, instead of ending or limiting, has been extended to the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (Fata) of Pakistan in the form of drone strikes, totally ignoring Pakistan’s contribution in the war against terror. Extension of this war to Pakistan is not only a sheer violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty right but a clear violation of human rights as the innocent civilians are being killed in the drone strikes.
The people in Pakistan are not only being gravely agonised from bomb blasts but also being victimised by an unannounced war. Several reports have revealed that all the causalities of drone strikes were not terrorists or supporter of terrorists, a majority of them were civilians who had nothing to do with terrorism or terrorists.
But no nation in the world has dared to condemn the inhuman actions of the United States and its collation partners against humanity in Pakistan’s tribal areas. The champion of humanity (US), in fact, claim that its flying killer machines only targeting terrorists, despite the fact that these flying killer machines are incapable of discriminating between Osama’s successor and an innocent local native.
According to international media reports, hundreds of lives have been taken by these flying killer machines in the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas of Pakistan so far. Every month, a list of alleged terrorists has been given to the drone operators sitting in the air bases in US and Afghanistan and no one knows how they gathered the details of the given list and how many of them are actually terrorists.
According to NAF, the United States targeted the tribal areas of Pakistan 388 times between 2004 and 2014, with the death toll between 2,184 to 3,559, of which 258 to 307 are considered to be civilian and 199 to 334 unidentified persons. Likewise, TBI reports reveal 401 drone strike for the same period, with the number of death between 2,383 and 3,858, of which civilian casualty count between 416 and 957, in addition to between 168 and 202 children.
There are reports as well that between January 2012 and February 2013, the United States special operations killed more than 200 people in the tribal areas of Pakistan. Of those, only 35 persons were the intended targets whereas nearly 90 percent of the people killed in the strike were not the intended targets. Another report reveals that 2,283 people have been killed by the United States drones in Pakistan since 2004. Of those only 33 were said to be “high-value target”.
The United States’ flying killer machine launched its first strike in North Waziristan Agency in 2004, leaving one person dead. During the starting years, the ratio of drone attacks remained low. However, a sudden increase in the drone strike was witnessed in 2008. During that period, the drone attacked 19 times in the area, leaving 156 dead and 17 injured. How many of them were civilian is not known.
These flying killer machines have not been strongly linked with a rise in anxiety, depression and other mental health issues among Pakistanis but the regular drone strike in the tribal areas has created psychological problems in children and adults there. People in the area are afraid to congregate in groups of more than three people as many such grouping has been targeted in the areas.
Civilian causalities are one of the major criticisms against using drones in the hunter-killer mission. However, the Washington administration is not paying any heed in this regard, despite the fact that collateral damage of these attacks creates more militants than it eliminates.
The counterinsurgency specialists David Kilcullen and the retired US Army officer Andrew Exum in their op-ed in the Times have also suggested that the drone attacks against Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders in Pakistan’s tribal areas should be suspended because it is causing more harm than good. According to them, the drone attacks have created a siege mentality among Pakistani and the major reason behind that the drone attacks often kill more civilians than militants.
The civilian deaths caused by drone attacks are solidifying the popular support of Islamic militants and that such perceptions may prevent success in the tribal areas of Pakistan. The use of these flying killing machines is not only violating international human rights law by killing civilian but also challenging Pakistan’s sovereignty which is a violation of international law and the UN charter.
Many legal entities have rejected the drone strike because they kill people without a declaration of war and without trial. The covert drone strikes affected civilians are left with nowhere to turn to for justice and compensation. Similarly, Clive Stafford-Smith has described the human rights concerns surrounding Pakistan drone attacks as “the next Guantanamo”.
Pakistan has raised the drone strike issue at the United Nations Human Rights Council and has asked the international community and human rights bodies to take notice of the rights violations taking place in the tribal areas. But still Pakistan’s sovereignty and human rights are being violated and if Pakistan reacts, as Pakistan Air Force chief has been ordered to shoot down drones, including the United States, against drone strikes it would not be in the interest of the United States.
The use of these killing machines is not a productive option. The United States would have to create the desired strategic environment, offer the right inducements and encourage the non-state actors to come to the negotiating table and to help to reach an acceptable solution to all the stakeholders in the areas. It would not only be helpful for the United States to protect its strategic interests but will provide a face-saving to the US and its allies in the region.
I would like to end on Plato quote, “Justice in the life and conduct of the State is possible only as first it resides in the hearts and souls of the citizens.”
The writer is IR research scholar and staffer for The Nation.