On Friday, August 24, 2012, our friend and ally rained down deadly rockets from three drones on hapless people in the North Waziristan Agency (NWA), killing 18 of them and injuring 14 others. No one knows and no one will ever know, how many of them were guilty of terrorist acts and how many were innocent. They were guilty because Uncle Sam says they were. One thing is certain; unless those killed in cold blood are identified as aliens holed-up in NWA, they are Pakistani citizens killed by Pakistan’s ally. It is not clear how the American war machine locates the hideouts of alleged militants and how they confirm positively that those being targeted are really the militants attacking American and Nato assets in Afghanistan. Till the details behind these allegations are made public or shared with Pakistan one tends to believe that innocent people are being killed in cold blood. This, perhaps, is the “awe and fear” inspiring the campaign that the US is so fond of launching to tell the world that it is the superpower?

One has almost lost the track of the time when the drones began attacking the people of Pakistan living in the tribal belt otherwise known as the Fata. These attacks have almost become a routine and people living in other parts of the country have callously become indifferent to the senseless murder and mayhem being inflicted there. According to Wikipedia, the drones started hitting Pakistan’s tribal region in 2004; the exact number of sorties in unknown, as the American CIA, which controls and directs these attacks under its Special Action Division, is secretive about their number or frequency. There is no certainty that these attacks kill the militants only. The collateral damage, killings of civilians, cannot be avoided. Brookings Institutes’ Daniel Byman estimates that for every one alleged militant 10 or so civilians get killed in these attacks. Numbers of total people killed vary and we may never know the exact figures. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism puts these figures at 2597 that includes 780 civilians and 160 children. Up to July, 24, 2012, the estimate of total killed varies from 1879 to 3240; and as noted earlier, exact figures of those killed may never be known.

The above figures are colossal when we realise that those being killed are human beings that includes the elderly, women and children who have no role in the so-called militancy. It is virtually a massacre of human beings being enacted every other day and sometimes repeated several times a day. For the American forces, the killing of human beings is not a new phenomenon. One reads about countless such massacres from those of Red Indians to Vietnam, Iraq and now in Pakistan. If the account of Australian author John Pilger is to be believed, the American forces buried alive countless Iraqi soldiers and civilians; subjected them to depleted uranium (DU) ammo bombardment, killing thousands. The radiation released by DU ammo caused a large- scale cancerous outbreak. The champion of human rights then blocked the inflow of medicines that caused the death of an untold number of Iraqis, most of them children. Those interested in reading about these atrocities should see Pilger’s book, “The New Rulers of the World”. Compared to those killings, the numbers killed in the drone strikes in the Fata may appear not so alarming for the Americans and their Western allies. Truly, the Crusade is on. There is a general apathy in the masses in Pakistan. Perhaps, it is an outcome of the common feeling of helplessness that the circumstances have obliged them to adopt; there is neither a robust outburst nor an agitation against these drones. Apart from news items appearing in the media, life goes on as normal.

The present government’s attitude can be summed up from a quote attributed to our President in Bob Woodward’s book “Obama’s Wars, “Collateral damage worries you Americans. It does not worry me.” With such assurances from our elected representatives the US enjoys unlimited freedom of action.

There is a worldwide reaction to this senseless murder caused by drones. People with conscience in the US and UK have moved the courts asking them to restrict the CIA in its atrocities against humanity. Close at hand in our own country we have witnessed at the parliamentary level collective activity but it has borne little fruit as yet. Our Parliament has adopted two resolutions but they have been thrown to the winds and the strikes have continued.

Recently when a senior US diplomat was summoned to the Foreign Office and was handed over a demarche had raised the hope that the attack might come to end since media reports suggested that the Pakistan government had taken a firm position in this regard. What really transpired we do not know, as the spokesman told the media that the contents of this correspondence could not be revealed but “efforts” are in hand to resolve the issue. The answer came in the shape of further drone attacks that killed 18 and injured another 14. The US knows that Pakistan’s civil-military administration neither has the will nor any intention to put up a strong opposition to this mayhem. The hollow cries of “unproductive, illegal and violation of our sovereignty and integrity” that our Foreign Office spokesman uttered in his briefings do not produce the desired result.

Unnoticed by the Muslim intelligentsia the threat perception of the West changed after the fall of Communism. Islam has taken its place as opposing its politico-social ideology. Since the 1980s countless books and research studied have been commissioned by Western think tanks and media houses focusing on internal dynamics of Muslim countries, especially the Middle East. These studies critically examine the Muslim cultural, ethnic, religious, economic, political and regional disparities. These studies enable the West to work out policy options in the future. The events taking place in the Muslim countries from Morocco in the Maghreb to Yemen in the east demonstrate that these Islamic militants are there for a purpose. How the Muslim world tackles this problem only time will tell; but seemingly the realization of the problem is not there.

Closer home, Pakistan needs to chalk out a coordinated plan to protect its sovereignty, integrity and its population from the predicament it has landed itself in. Pakistan’s civil-military administration needs to show its will and resolve to reset its relations with the USA to safeguard its national interests. First, it must redefine terrorism as it affects Pakistan and not be necessarily guided by the definition put forward by the US administration. Secondly, with the strength of unanimous resolutions passed by our Parliament and the All Parties’ Conference on drone attacks it must draw out a fresh terms of engagement in its alliance with the US on the so-called war on terror. This arrangement should be transparent and open. When Pakistanis are being killed mercilessly by the dozens there is no point hedging behind secrecy. If Pakistan does not show this will the drone attacks will continue, its citizens will keep dying. Mere démarches would not do.

The writer is a retired brigadier and a political analyst. Email: arjerral639@hotmail.com