Senator John Kerry, nominated by President Obama to replace Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, has been forthright in rejecting the idea of cutting aid to Pakistan until it releases from custody Dr Shakil Afridi, who has been instrumental in identifying al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden that ultimately led to his death. When at a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday, Republican Senator Rand Paul made this suggestion, Senator Kerry pointed to certain substantive issues of interest to the US that would not be served if the suggestion was accepted. His words, “Rather than cut aid, which is a pretty dramatic, draconian and sledgehammer approach to a relationship that really has a lot of interests...we have our lines of communication – roads that go to Afghanistan and that route is critical to our supply to our troops...we have in addition to that intelligence cooperation.” For the first time, perhaps, a prominent US political figure like Senator Kerry recalled at the hearing Islamabad’s helpfulness.

It is this pragmatic appreciation of the need to maintain close relations with Pakistan as well as its key location in a region of great strategic importance to the US that had led the Senator in the past as well to adopt a more realistic attitude towards Pakistan. And for this reason, his nomination for the key slot in the Obama administration was generally welcomed in the country. Senator Kerry also asked the committee to recall the sacrifices Islamabad had made in pursuing the war on terror. As much as 6,000 people of Pakistan, he said, lost their lives only in 2012, in addition to the earlier death toll of 30,000. Therefore, he did not want to make any move that was not “wise for American policy”. One would very much like to hope that once he assumes the charge of the new office he would be able to delve deeper into the consequences of civilian deaths caused by drone attacks in Pakistan’s tribal region. A dispassionate look at their aftermath, a new crop of vengeful militants, went contrary to Washington’s declared purpose of launching the war on terror. A man of Senator Kerry’s political acumen would have no difficulty in coming to that conclusion.

Meanwhile, the UN has launched an investigation into the impact of drone strikes and the deaths of civilians as a result. Its special rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights Ben Emmerson told journalists, on Friday, of the need for accountability when drone attacks went wrong. He is conducting a probe that focuses on 25 case studies of attacks in Pakistan and some other countries. “The exponential rise in the use of drone technology” was a real challenge that required a legal framework of an established international law, he remarked. There is urgent need to put in place suitable checks on the use of drones to avoid the violation of the fundamental right of man to life.